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HIA sex abuse inquiry: No credible evidence British Establishment paedophile ring operated in Belfast boys' home Kincora

There was "no credible evidence" of a paedophile ring made up of members of the British Establishment using an east Belfast boys home to carry out abuse, Sir Anthony Hart has said while delivering his report on historical institutional abuse at a series of children's homes run by church and charity in Northern Ireland.

Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart chaired an independent panel, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry, helped by a team of lawyers and researchers.

On Friday he delivered his 2,300 page-long, 10 volume report saying he had the full co-operation from state, religious orders and government in its making.

Sir Anthony Hart said: "Our terms of reference, unlike other current inquiries, were not limited to sexual abuse, we examined allegations of physical and emotional abuse and other failings to provide proper terms of care."

At the notorious Kincora boys home, where there were numerous allegation made of abuse, Sir Anthony said if an adequate RUC investigation had been carried out "those sexually abused after 1976 would have been spared their experience."

More: Kincora: How scandal was first reported in 1980

The inquiry investigated persistent claims that intelligence agencies covered up the crimes committed by a paedophile ring in the home in the 1970s in order to blackmail some alleged high-profile abusers from within the British Establishment.

However, Sir Anthony ruled this out saying there was no "credible evidence" such an operation was in existence.

Ahead of outlining his conclusions on the home, Sir Anthony said the Government's assurance that all files and evidence would be given to the inquiry had been "honoured".

Also among those to be singled out was the Sisters of Nazareth order which ran boys homes at Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge in Belfast and Termonbacca and Bishop Street in Derry.

Sir Anthony said: "The largest number of complaints to the HIA related to four homes of the Sisters of Nazareth religious order. In each of the four homes some nuns engaged in physical and emotional abuse against children. Emotional abuse was widespread in all homes."

Turning to Rubane House which was run by the Catholic De La Salle order, Sir Anthony said children were subject to "excessive physical punishment" and fell victim to "physical assaults".

Four-hundred-and-ninety-three people gave evidence to the Sir Anthony Hart headed investigation over 223 hearings - some in Australia - which outlined claims of brutality and sex abuse dating back to the 1920s in institutions run by churches and the state.

Delivering his opening statement, Sir Anthony Hart said it was "clearly distressing and painful" for those taking part

"We hope in some way giving evidence helped those who were not listened to in the past," he said.

Sir Anthony said the investigation found many examples of good practice.

More:

HIA inquiry evidence heard children treated like 'baby convicts'

The HIA Inquiry and its workings 

Sir Anthony has already indicated that compensating victims will be among his recommendations, however the level of any compensation is to be decided by the Executive, which ordered the inquiry on the back of calls from victims.

Given the current political crisis, however, it remains to be seen if compensation will ever be agreed.

The inquiry was created in 2013 to investigate child abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period, up to 1995.

It finished hearing evidence with an investigation into an alleged paedophile ring that operated at the notorious Kincora boys' home, east Belfast

Earlier, the expert panel heard lurid details about the activities of Fr Brendan Smyth, a serial child molester who frequented Catholic residential homes and was convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges.

Other former residents claimed some Catholic nuns at a Sisters of Nazareth children's home in Northern Ireland were sadistic bullies who did not do enough to protect residents from sexual predators.

A man alleged he was raped by a member of the Catholic De La Salle order of brothers using a piece of equipment for restraining farm animals. Police said sex abuse at Rubane House in Co Down was rife.

Children sent to Australia under a special transportation scheme were treated like baby convicts, witnesses said, deprived of their real identities and shipped without parental consent.

However, a health worker who visited Kincora said she was unaware of the abuse, while a lawyer told the public inquiry fewer than 2% of residents at a Catholic-run training school alleged mistreatment.

Others said they had been well cared for by overworked staff when they had nowhere else to go and when wider society had rejected them because they were born to unmarried mothers or were orphans.

Some were resident during the chaos of 1970s Belfast or Londonderry when The Troubles were at their fiercest.

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