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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation Report


I.3: Particular cases

Sir Jimmy Savile

18. Jimmy Savile was awarded the OBE in 1971 and was made a Knight Bachelor in 1990. He died in 2011. After his death, significant numbers of allegations of child sexual abuse came to light (although some had been made during his lifetime) which led to an extensive criminal investigation by the Metropolitan Police. As a result, there has been public pressure for his knighthood to be forfeited.

19. The Savile case raises the question of posthumous forfeiture of honours. The position is, and has historically been, that an honour cannot be forfeited after the death of the recipient. This is because an honour is considered a living award for the duration of the recipient’s life; after their death the recipient is no longer a member of the particular Order and the award dies with them.[1]

20. The Cabinet Office, prompted by the Savile case, considered in a 2012 paper whether to change the current policy to permit posthumous forfeiture.[2] The reasons for maintaining the current policy are said to be based on “convention and long-standing precedent”.[3] The paper presents a ‘floodgates’ argument against changing the policy:

The main practical argument for maintaining the current position is around where we would draw the line if the Forfeiture Committee agreed to consider the cases of deceased individuals – would the flood gates be opened and how far back in time would the Committee be expected to go when considering cases? We cannot find any precedents for forfeiting honours from deceased individuals.

The paper goes on to say that the Palace has been consulted informally and they consider that the current policy should be maintained. The paper continues:

There is also the question of what advantage there would be in the Forfeiture Committee considering cases concerning deceased individuals. It may satisfy immediate media hunger for action to be taken, but it can be argued that forfeiting an honour after death would have a greater impact on the individual’s family and friends – they would be the ones to suffer rather than the individual.[4]

21. Ms MacNamara told us that she was “not particularly comfortable with some of the arguments” advanced in this paper.[5] She accepted that the paper focussed on the interests of the recipient’s family and friends, while making no reference whatsoever about the impact on victims of a perpetrator retaining an honour. Ms MacNamara conceded that the Cabinet Office would consider the matter again if the Inquiry made a recommendation to this effect. She stressed that posthumous forfeiture would be complicated to implement in practice for various reasons, including because the recipient could not make representations.[6]

22. However, the convention which militates against changing the policy is out of step with modern usage. Recipients of knighthoods and damehoods are invariably referred to as ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ after their death. There is no sense as a matter of practice that the award has died with the recipient.

23. It appears from the documents that then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pressed for a knighthood for Savile for a number of years but it was not considered appropriate to award it because of revelations in the press about Savile’s private life.[7] In a letter dated 7 July 1998 an anonymous member of the public told the Cabinet Office that:

investigative reporters have uncovered unspeakable facts concerning the personality Jimmy Savile. They have been aware for some time of his homosexual rendezvous with rent boys. Indeed, some years ago, he had considerable trouble, which I may add he hid very well, with certain of these rent boys. I am sure you are aware of an unfortunate timing that could occur if such was implemented and certain reports of a paedophiliac nature was to become public knowledge.[8]

24. Ms MacNamara stated that if such a letter were sent today it would raise an alarm, that action would be taken and that it would be passed to the police.[9] There does not seem to be a specific written policy to this effect in the forfeiture action procedures document.[10]

Sir Peter Hayman

25. Peter Hayman was alleged to have been a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange and to have sent and received obscene material through the post. He was given a knighthood in 1971. While he was not prosecuted for child sexual abuse offences, in 1984 he was convicted and fined for gross indecency when he was caught with a man in a public lavatory.

26. A letter from the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Antony Acland, to the Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, dated June 1984 referred to allegations that Hayman was “involved in an organisation called the Paedophile Information Exchange, a homosexual organisation putting those inclined in touch with young boys”. It also noted that he “was not charged with any offence, but there seemed to be a good deal of circumstantial evidence of his involvement to some extent and he certainly did not bring any libel action, nor were there categorical denials”.[11]

27. The letter also stated that Hayman had been convicted of gross indecency that year, and recorded a gathering of senior officers of the Order of St Michael and St George to decide on what should be done in relation to Hayman’s knighthood. There was a difference of opinion between officers of the Order.

Lord Saint Brides thought that the officers of the Order should recommend that he be stripped, since to do nothing might offend members of the Order, and possibly members of the general public, and appear ineffective. The Dean of St Paul’s also took this view, largely because of his anxiety to protect young children, although Sir Peter Hayman was not specifically convicted of any charge in this respect. All those present said that their feelings were a mixture of repugnance and compassion and Sir Charles Johnson and I, taking into account the publicity and the sadness caused to Sir Peter’s family, felt that compassion should be uppermost. The prelate, Bishop Woods, suggested that Sir Peter Hayman should be given a formal warning by him to the effect that if there was any recurrence of these activities or if they came to the notice of the Officers of the Order with or without publicity, there would be no alternative but to recommend the stripping of his knighthood.[12]

Sir Antony considered that a formal warning “would enable Officers of the Order to say to those who feel outraged that the matter has not been ignored”. A warning was given.[13]

28. Ms MacNamara did not know of another time when a warning had been given in this way and noted that there was also no mention of the Forfeiture Committee, which was “really unusual”.[14] It is worth saying that the Forfeiture Committee operated slightly differently at that time, as Sir Robert Armstrong stated:

Even in cases where a custodial sentence has been given, we could well recommend against forfeiture where the offence seems likely to be an isolated incident and does not call into question the reliability of the person concerned.[15]

29. Nevertheless, it seems clear that Hayman was given preferential or exceptional treatment because of his status and contacts. The letter referred to measures taken to ensure that Hayman’s activities did not come “to the notice of the Officers of the Order with or without publicity”.[16] This suggests that members of the Order were more concerned about covering up the bad behaviour of other members and preventing the Order’s reputation being tarnished than they were about fair and open process or protecting victims. The Dean of St Paul’s appears to have been the only member who was concerned about the protection of children.

Sir Cyril Smith

30. Cyril Smith received a knighthood in 1988. He was nominated by Lord Steel.[17] A nomination was usual for an MP of long-standing service.[18] Prior to that time, according to Lord Steel’s own account, Smith had confirmed to Lord Steel that he had been investigated by the police for spanking boys’ bottoms and holding boys’ testicles.[19] Lord Steel had assumed that Smith had committed these offences.[20] Given what Lord Steel knew, it was inappropriate that he saw fit to nominate Smith for a knighthood. It was wrong that he was uninterested and did not think it relevant that Smith had abused children.

31. The Inquiry has previously investigated the circumstances of the granting of Smith’s knighthood as part of the Rochdale investigation.[21] In addition to the details set out in the Inquiry’s Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale investigation report, we note that the Security Service provided input on whether Smith should be granted a knighthood. Sir Patrick Walker, the Director General of MI5 at the time, wrote to Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler drawing his attention to the news article in which the police investigation was reported.[22] This is how the PHSC came to consider it some weeks later.

32. The Cabinet Office accepted the Inquiry’s criticisms about the process adopted in Smith’s case, particularly that Smith was wrongly given the benefit of the doubt and that victims were not considered.[23] Ms MacNamara said that if a similar situation arose today in the considerations of the honours committees, the benefit of the doubt would now go the other way, and that far more weight would be given to an issue of integrity relating to child sexual abuse even if not yet evidenced.[24]

David Chesshyre

33. The case of David Hubert Boothby Chesshyre was referred to in evidence as an example of a case where a flexible approach was taken to forfeiture.[25] In 2004, Chesshyre had been awarded a CVO (Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (RVO), an honour within the personal gift of the sovereign). In October 2015, he was charged and tried at Snaresbrook Crown Court on charges of sexual offences against a child[26] committed between 1995 and 1998. He was found unfit to plead, but at a trial of the facts was found by the jury to have committed the acts underlying two specimen counts of indecent assault against a child; a third charge was ordered to lie on file. Because Chesshyre had been found to be unfit to plead, no conviction ensued and he was granted an absolute discharge by the court.

34. Following the oral hearing in this investigation, WM-A120, who was the victim of indecent assaults committed by Chesshyre, provided a detailed witness statement to the Inquiry.[27] WM-A120 told us about the ways in which Chesshyre persistently groomed and abused him when he was a child aged between 12 and 16 years. He also raised a number of concerns in relation to the forfeiture process, which we examine below. We subsequently received further clarificatory evidence from Sir Jonathan Stephens[28] who, as explained above, is responsible for the honours system.[29]

35. In October 2015, following the trial of the facts, WM-A120 contacted the Honours and Appointments Secretariat at the Cabinet Office to enquire about the process for forfeiture. He was told to contact Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, because the CVO is within the personal gift of the sovereign. He sent a letter to Sir Alan Reid setting out his concerns and requesting a recommendation to the Queen that Chesshyre’s CVO and other awards be annulled.[30] On 10 November 2015, Sir Alan Reid sent a short response, the substance of which stated:

Mr Chesshyre was given an absolute discharge and no conviction is registered. In these circumstances it would be wrong to submit a recommendation to The Queen.[31]

36. Sir Jonathan Stephens provided documents to the Inquiry[32] showing that prior to sending that response, Sir Alan Reid had been in correspondence with Thomas Woodcock CVO, Garter Principal King of Arms. The Garter Principal King of Arms is the senior officer of the College of Arms, of which Chesshyre was a member for 40 years and registrar from 1992 to 2000. Sir Alan Reid had asked Mr Woodcock for some suitable wording to incorporate into his response to WM-A120. On 4 November 2015, Mr Woodcock wrote to Sir Alan Reid enclosing a copy of a letter from Chesshyre’s solicitors containing their advice on the outcome of the trial of the facts. Mr Woodcock also provided a form of words which was almost identical to the substance of Sir Alan Reid’s response to WM-A120.

37. Sir Alan Reid responded expressing his gratitude to Mr Woodcock “for providing the precise wording which I can use to answer [WM-A120’s] letter, and I have written to him today to this effect”.[33] Sir Alan did not seek representations directly from Chesshyre’s representatives or consider them in a balanced way against the concerns raised by WM-A120. Neither did he explain his reasoning to WM-A120, including the application of any guidelines on forfeiture. Instead, Sir Alan Reid wrote to Mr Woodcock, who was closely associated with Chesshyre in his honorary role, and asked him to provide wording for a response to WM-A120. He then adopted that precise wording in the response, and gave no other explanation. This was a complex and unprecedented case upon which different decision-makers might come to different conclusions depending on the degree of discretion allowed. However, the process adopted by Sir Alan in responding to WM-A120’s concerns was flawed and not impartial.

38. Following receipt of Sir Alan Reid’s letter, WM-A120 raised the matter with his MP, Jim Dowd, who wrote to the Prime Minister.[34] Sir Jonathan Stephens explained that as a result, the Honours and Appointments Secretariat and the Royal Household agreed that the Forfeiture Committee should consider the matter notwithstanding that it related to the forfeiture of a CVO, an honour within the personal gift of the sovereign.[35] The agreement means that any future complaint against an RVO recipient would fall to the Forfeiture Committee to act as the independent assessor of whether it was a forfeiture matter.[36]

39. The Forfeiture Committee considered the Chesshyre case and came to the following conclusion:

The secretariat takes the view that the outcome of the trial holds equivalent weight to a full criminal investigation. There is no precedent of which the secretariat is aware for recommending forfeiture following a trial of the facts. However, there is a precedent for forfeiture where the sentence fell short of the ‘three months’ imprisonment’ hard trigger, in a previous case involving child abuse.[37]

Forfeiture was recommended. Taking a flexible approach in a novel situation appears to have been appropriate, notwithstanding the technical lack of a conviction. Sir Jonathan Stephens indicated that he regards this approach as setting a precedent for any future cases concerning a trial of the facts.[38] On 15 May 2018, the Queen approved the recommendation and the CVO was forfeited on that date.[39]

40. However, WM-A120 was not told of the forfeiture for five months after the decision, and he continued to follow it up in the meantime.[40] We were told by Sir Jonathan Stephens that this was because the Forfeiture Committee was considering representations and new information provided to it by Chesshyre’s brother on his behalf.[41] It was considered inappropriate to inform WM-A120 of an outcome which may change, as honours can be reinstated. However, it is regrettable that the Cabinet Office did not write to WM-A120 during this period, at least to inform him that the process remained ongoing.

41. In Chesshyre’s case, the Forfeiture Committee decided exceptionally that the forfeiture would not be published in the London Gazette. Sir Jonathan Stephens stated that this was “a reflection of the circumstances of how the case had been handled and, to a lesser degree, in light of Mr Chesshyre’s ill-health”.[42] In our view, neither of these reasons provides a satisfactory explanation as to why an exception was made to the usual rule that forfeitures are published.

42. Further, as acknowledged by Sir Jonathan Stephens,[43] it is likely that the lack of publication has hindered WM-A120 in highlighting the issue to third parties. WM-A120 has made concerted efforts to advise organisations with which Chesshyre was involved to remove his honorary status or associations because he was found to have committed acts of child sexual abuse.[44] Most of those organisations have chosen not to cease their association with Chesshyre. While it may not have changed the outcome, it is likely that publication of the forfeiture in the usual way would have assisted WM-A120 in making those approaches. In addition, Chesshyre has recently been referred to as holding the CVO in materials published by organisations with which he is associated. He should not have used or been referred to as holding the honour after it had been forfeited.

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