Could Jimmy Savile lose knighthood over abuse claims?

Sir Jimmy Savile after receiving his knighthood in 1996
Image caption The Cabinet Office says all knighthoods cease to apply when the recipients die

Prime Minister David Cameron has entered the debate about whether Jimmy Savile's knighthood should be rescinded because of the sex abuse claims against him.

Asked about the allegations surrounding the late entertainer, Mr Cameron suggested that the removal of his honour might be an option.

He said: "We have something called the Forfeiture Committee, it's not chaired or sat on by me, but it is responsible for looking at honours and the removal of honours and obviously they have to do their job properly."

Police investigating the alleged abuse say they are pursuing 120 separate lines of inquiry, and Scotland Yard says there could be 20 to 25 victims in total.

None of the allegations has been proven - but the Sun newspaper has started a campaign to have the presenter's knighthood removed.

Honours system

Sir Jimmy was awarded the OBE in 1971, and received his knighthood from the Queen in 1996.

Honours can be taken away in cases when recipients are, according to the Forfeiture Committee's website, "judged to have brought the honours system into disrepute".

In January 2012, Royal Bank of Scotland's former chief executive Fred Goodwin had his knighthood removed because of his role in the bank's near-collapse in 2008.

And in 1987 the jockey, Lester Piggott, lost his OBE after being jailed for tax fraud.

But the Cabinet Office explained that there were no legal arrangements in place to remove honours posthumously.

Part of the reason is that an OBE or a knighthood expires when a person dies - but it is also highly unusual for there to be calls for a recipient to be stripped of their honour after they have died.

Reconsider rules

However, a Cabinet Office spokesman said it was possible that as a result of the Jimmy Savile case, the Honours Forfeiture Committee might reconsider the rules.

He said: "There are currently a number of police investigations under way into the allegations.

"The Order of the British Empire is a living order and individuals cease to be a member when they die. An appointment as a Knight Bachelor would also cease on death.

"However, that doesn't mean that the Forfeiture Committee won't consider the impact on the honours system of cases such as the one under discussion."

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