Feb. 25 (UPI) -- British political institutions have "significantly failed" for decades in their responses to reports of child sexual abuse, independent investigators concluded Tuesday.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, established in 2015 after a series of high-profile accusations of past abuse by powerful British political figures, said in the report that government failures ranged from an inability to recognize abuse to "actively protecting high-profile offenders, including politicians."
"It is clear to see that Westminster institutions have repeatedly failed to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse, from turning a blind eye to actively shielding abusers," said inquiry Chairman Alexis Jay. "A consistent pattern emerged of failures to put the welfare of children above political status although we found no evidence of an organized network of pedophiles within government.
"We hope this report and its recommendations will lead political institutions to prioritize the needs and safety of vulnerable children."
The 173-page report, written after three weeks of public hearings last year, said, for instance, that members of Parliament "known to be active in their sexual interest in children" in the 1970s and 1980s escaped prosecutions, including Cyril Smith of the former Liberal Party and Peter Morrison of the Conservative Party.
Former Liberal Party leader David Steel told the inquiry he saw "no reason" to examine Smith's case because accusations against him arose before he joined the party.
"This failure to recognize the risks was an abdication of responsibility, and the fact the offenses were non-recent was irrelevant," the report noted, further criticizing Steel for abdicating "his responsibility" and appearing "completely unrepentant."
Steel had remained a peer to the Liberal Democrats, which succeeded the Liberal Party in 1989, but he resigned from the party following the report Tuesday. He also said he will accelerate plans to retire from his post in the House of Lords as soon as possible, "with considerable personal sorrow."
The report said senior officials in the Conservative Party knew for years about the accusations involving Morrison but didn't pass them on to authorities. He later became former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's parliamentary private secretary and was knighted in 1991.
The inquiry made a series of recommendations, including demanding all political parties have "comprehensive" child sex abuse policies and procedures.