By Elizabeth Howcroft
LONDON (Reuters) – British politicians turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children and actively covered up allegations over decades, an independent inquiry into historical sex offences in Westminster found on Tuesday.
The inquiry did not find evidence of an organized pedophile network in its examination of the period, covering the 1960s through until the 1990s.
But the report found there “have been significant failures by Westminster institutions in their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse.”
“This included failure to recognize it, turning a blind eye to it, actively shielding and protecting child sexual abusers and covering up allegations,” the report’s summary said.
The 173-page report found that several members of parliament in the 1970s and 1980s, including Peter Morrison and Cyril Smith, were “known or rumored to be active in their sexual interest in children and were protected from prosecution in a number of ways,” by police, prosecutors and political parties.
Peter Morrison was the private secretary to Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister at the time.
Both Morrison and Smith received knighthoods – a British honors system which awards the title ‘Sir’.
The inquiry found about 30 instances of people’s honors being forfeited after they were convicted for crimes involving sexual abuse.
Margaret Thatcher pushed for a knighthood for Jimmy Savile, which he got in 1990, despite revelations in the media about the TV presenter’s sexual abuse of children, the report said.
The inquiry also discussed the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which campaigned for the public acceptance of pedophilia and for changes in the law to allow adults to have sex with children.
It was accepted by some charities as the voice of an oppressed sexual minority and took part in London’s gay pride march in 1983.
“PIE’s aims were given foolish and misguided support for several years by people and organisations who should have known better… There was a fundamental failure to see the problem and a lack of moral courage to confront it,” the report said.
The inquiry found no evidence that the Home Office funded the campaign group.
Home Secretary Priti Patel hailed the “strength and courage” of the victims who testified during the inquiry.
“[The] government will review this report and consider how to respond to its content in due course,” she said in a statement.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) – of which the Westminster investigation is one strand – is one of the largest and most expensive ever undertaken in Britain.
It began work in 2017 and is expected to take five years to complete.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Alistair Smout/Guy Faulconbridge)