Lawyers have called for an overhaul of the honours forfeiture system after it emerged that a sex abuser retained an honour bestowed for services to the Queen some three years after a court recognised him as a paedophile.
The system is too slow to acknowledge an offender’s offences, say lawyers specialising in abuse claims, and, in the case of those who have died, cannot strip them of their honours, leaving victims feeling that they have been cheated of justice.
Hubert Chesshyre, 78, an expert on heraldry and genealogy, held a number of senior positions within the royal household, rising to become secretary of the most noble order of the garter, the highest order in British chivalry. Among the many honours bestowed upon him over more than 40 years were the Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilee Medals, and the commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) – the latter for distinguished personal service to the monarch. A fellow or member of several illustrious organisations and charities, he was a heraldic consultant to the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Lord Sugar and Sir Terry Pratchett.
But it recently emerged during the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) that in 2015 Chesshyre was found to have sexually abused a teenage chorister during the 1990s, a fact that has remained buried from public record. This is because Chesshyre’s case did not result in a criminal conviction. Rather, the inquiry heard “he was found to have committed the acts in question” in a trial of the facts.
These are held when the accused is deemed unfit to plead. The court recognised that Chesshyre had suffered a stroke. It was also said that he had dementia. As a result, despite being found to have committed the abuse, he was given an absolute discharge.
The fact that Chesshyre’s name was misspelled throughout the trial, despite repeated police efforts to have it corrected, has made it difficult to identify him in legal databases.