Buckingham Palace pushed back against public calls for Jimmy Savile to be stripped of his knighthood after his death, it has emerged.
After his death in 2011, aged 84, Savile was accused of sexual abuse against hundreds of people, ranging in ages from eight to 47. As a result, there was a public outcry for Savile to have his knighthood removed posthumously.
The case prompted the Cabinet Office to consider whether there should be a formal change to mean awards can be forfeited posthumously.
However, according to notes released to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse released this week, palace officials did not think there was any need to change policy on honours, because the honour effectively dies with the recipient.
While precedent is that the honour or appointment dies with the person, it’s not uncommon to continue to hear a person referred to as Sir or Dame in obituaries. Savile can still be referred to as Sir Jimmy.
The report from the IICSA says that memos to the Cabinet in 2012 stated: “We have consulted the Palace informally. They consider that the current policy should be maintained as they are firmly of the view that an individual is honoured in their lifetime and the honour is for the duration of their life.
“The date of death should mark the closure of any affair.
“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.”
Buckingham Palace has been contacted for comment.
Appointments like OBEs and Knighthoods can be reviewed or cancelled if a “recipient is deemed to have brought the honours system into disrepute”. This only applies to living members.
In the paper considered by the Cabinet Office in 2012, “convention and long-standing precedent” were given as reasons not to change the previous system which stopped the forfeiture committee considering stripping members who have died.
Considerations which had to be made included whether the next of kin of deceased members would have the opportunity to submit a written representation to the committee before a decision was made and whether there would be a time limit on cases.
The Palace had also commented on the use of the London Gazette for recording posthumous forfeitures, with the report stating they had “informally expressed a lack of enthusiasm”.
Savile lost several of his awards from other organisations after he died, including being a Freeman of the Borough of Scarborough, and honorary doctorates from the universities of Leeds and Bedfordshire.
His name was removed from street signs put up in his honour and the headstone on his grave was removed and broken up at the request of his family.
The report from the IICSA showed the political establishment had spent decades turning a “blind eye” to allegations of child sexual abuse.
But it found no evidence of a Westminster paedophile ring, allegations dating back to 2012 that kickstarted the multi-million pound inquiry.
The latest IICSA report recommended the Cabinet Office reconsider “policy on posthumous forfeiture, in order to consider the perspectives of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse”.