Having honours taken away (forfeiture)

Honours can be taken away from people who have done something to damage the honours system’s reputation. Taking an honour away is called ‘forfeiture’.

Can honours be removed?

Yes. It is possible to remove an honour on the advice of the Forfeiture Committee and with the approval of the Sovereign.

What is the process for forfeiture?

Recommendations to remove honours are considered by the Forfeiture Committee. Each case is considered individually. The Committee’s recommendations for forfeiture are submitted through the Prime Minister to the Queen. If the Queen gives her approval, a notice of forfeiture is placed in the London Gazette.

What is the role of the Forfeiture Committee?

The Committee considers cases put to it when the holder of an honour has brought the honours system into disrepute. Examples include if an individual:

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

But the Committee is not restricted to these two criteria, and any case can be considered where there is evidence to suggest that the retention of an honour would bring the honours system into disrepute. The Committee is not an investigatory body: it does not decide whether or not someone is guilty or innocent of a particular act. Instead it reflects the findings of official investigations and makes a recommendation of whether or not the honours system has been brought into disrepute.

Who is on the Forfeiture Committee?

The Forfeiture Committee has a majority of independent members. It is chaired by Sir Jonathan Stephens on behalf of the Head of the Civil Service. The other members are the Treasury Solicitor; the chair of the independent honours committee which recommended the honour when it was first awarded; and two other specialist committee chairs who have no association with the case(s) under consideration.

How long has the Forfeiture Committee been in existence?

About fifty years.

How many times does it meet?

It meets as required.

Where can I find the names of people who have been stripped of their honours?

The names of those who have had honours revoked can be found in the London Gazette. The Forfeiture Committee cannot comment on whether the recipient of an honour is being considered for forfeiture.

Published 27 December 2017