It seems remarkably reserved of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse to suggest that heraldry expert Hubert Chesshyre was given “preferential treatment” after he was found to have committed two specimen counts of indecent assault against a child.
The perpetrator had been made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in 2014 but by the time he was accused, the following year, he was found to be suffering from dementia and unfit to plead. How convenient.
A trial of the facts led to a unanimous verdict that he had committed two specimen counts of indecent assault against a child, with a third ordered to lie on file. But because he had been found unfit to plead, he was awarded an absolute discharge. How convenient.
Later that year, the victim approached the honours and appointments secretariat at the Cabinet Office, requesting that Chesshyre’s honour should be rescinded. He was told to contact Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse (as the honour is the gift of the Sovereign).
Reid received help in drafting his response from Thomas Woodcock, Garter Principal King of Arms, the senior officer of the College of Arms, of which Chesshyre was a member for 40 years – and said that, as Chesshyre was given an absolute discharge, “it would be wrong to submit a recommendation to the Queen”. How convenient.
After an intervention from the victim’s MP, Jim Dowd, the forfeiture committee recommended the Queen remove the honour. But the victim did not learn of this until five months after the decision because the forfeiture committee was considering “representations and new information provided to it by Chesshyre’s brother on his behalf”. How convenient.
The committee took the almost unprecedented decision not to publish the forfeiture in official journal of record the London Gazette, in “reflection of how the case had been handled and, to a lesser degree, in light of Mr Chesshyre’s ill-health”. How convenient.
The failure to publish confirmation of the forfeiture had made it difficult for the victim to bring Chesshyre’s abuse to the attention of prestigious organisations of which he continued to be a member, so they saw no reason to end their association with him. How convenient.
Buckingham Palace has said it does not comment on individuals, but that it has reviewed its processes and changes have been made to reflect lessons learned. We are not informed of the nature of those changes. How convenient.
And a government spokesman has said the forfeiture process is confidential and it would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases. How convenient.
So it seems a convicted child abuser got off free as a bird because the government and Buckingham Palace conspired to hide his guilt.
And all the inquiry could say was that Chesshyre had received “preferential or exceptional treatment … because of their status and contacts, regardless of the known involvement of child victims”.
Is that good enough?
I think the victim deserves a grovelling apology, at the very least, from the bureaucrats who hid the facts of his abuse from the public and other organisations. Don’t you agree?
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