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Goodwin joins Mugabe, Mussolini and Ceausescu in gang of disgraced figures

By joining the list of people to have been stripped of awards and knighthoods, the former RBS chief is in dubious company

Fred Goodwin joins a select gang of disgraced figures who have been stripped of their knighthoods and awards by the honours forfeiture committee.

According to the Cabinet Office, he is the 35th person to have an honour withdrawn since 1995. Last year a former Manchester headteacher, Jean Else, became the first woman to have her damehood annulled.

The forfeiture committee was established to ensure that the system of knighthoods, peerages and other awards was not brought into disrepute.

It is composed of senior civil servants. Meeting at least once a year, the committee examines individual cases brought to its attention and reviews general policy about how the system should operate.

The threshold of public disgrace required to trigger an assessment of whether an individual should have his or her honour withdrawn is based on whether he or she has either been:

• found guilty by the courts of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than three months, or;

• censured or struck off by the relevant regulatory authority or professional body for actions or failures to act which are directly relevant to the granting of the honour.

The committee’s members include the head of the civil service, Sir Bob Kerslake, the permanent secretaries to the Home Office and the Scottish government, Dame Helen Ghosh and Sir Peter Housden respectively, the Treasury solicitor, Paul Jenkins, and the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood.

The committee’s recommendations are submitted to the Queen through the prime minister. Any decisions on forfeiture are formally published in the London Gazette.

Another prominent figure to have lost his knighthood recently was Allen Stanford, the US and Barbados financier, who is awaiting trial for allegedly swindling investors out of more than £4.5bn. As a Commonwealth award, it was removed by a different forfeiture committee in 2010.

Robert Mugabe, knighted in 1994, at a time when it was argued that it might moderate his behaviour, had the honour withdrawn in 2008 following the international furore over violent, disputed elections.

Jack Lyons, a businessman and philanthropist, who was convicted for his role in the Guinness share trading scandal, was stripped of his knighthood in 1991.

The Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, honoured by the British government in an attempt to improve relations within Europe during the cold war had his knighthood revoked the day before his execution by a revolutionary firing squad.

Anthony Blunt, the keeper of the Queen’s pictures, was knighted for his services to art only to have his status revoked in 1979 shortly after the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, had exposed his double life as a Soviet spy in parliament.

Other victims of the hasty re-writing of history have included the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and the Irish patriot Roger Casement.

Mussolini had been the first Italian to receive the honour. He was given the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1923 from King George V.

Il Duce lost his knighthood when Italy joined Nazi Germany in 1940 in declaring war on the UK.

The case of Roger Casement remains one of the most controversial forfeitures. A distinguished diplomat and human rights campaigner, he was eventually hanged for treason. He had attempted to deliver weapons to Irish republicans before the Easter Rising in 1916. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds