Belfast - A four-year inquiry into abuses in care homes in Northern Ireland found widespread mistreatment in its final report on Friday and concluded that hundreds of victims were entitled to financial compensation.The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry found "evidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and unacceptable practices" from 1922 to 1995 in most of the institutions it investigated.These included 22 care homes run by state, church and charitable bodies in the once-troubled province.The report said victims could receive compensation of up to £100 000 each.Anthony Hart, a retired senior judge who chaired the inquiry, noted it was the first time most of the victims had been given the chance to relate what happened to them as children in residential care."Describing those experiences was not always easy, indeed at times it was clearly distressing and painful, and we thank them for their courage and determination in doing so," he said in a statement."We hope that in some measure the process of giving evidence... helped those who were not listened to in the past."A total of 493 people came forward to report abuses.The majority were heard in Belfast, but testimonies were also gathered in the rest of Britain, Ireland and Australia.Serial failures by policeThe report was particularly scathing over serial failures by police to investigate allegations and the role of the Catholic Church in protecting perpetrators, particularly notorious serial paedophile Brendan Smyth, who was eventually convicted of dozens of offences against children."There was repeated failure to assess the risk he posed to children," the report states. Four homes run by the Catholic Sisters of Nazareth order attracted the highest number of complaints.The report found that nuns abused children in their care both physically and emotionally through practices such as putting strong disinfectant into their baths. In another Catholic home run by the De La Salle order, children endured "physical assaults".Margaret McGuckin, chair of Savia (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse) told the BBC the victims had "waited a lifetime" for the report."Today we are believed. As young children, we tried to complain about our abuse and no one would listen. In particular, the religious orders and these holy devout Christian people disbelieved us and even bullied us more for daring to complain," she said.Leo O'Reilly, bishop of Kilmore where Brendan Smyth served, apologised in a statement."The Church cannot be, and should never have been, a safe harbour for anyone responsible for abuse," he said.