Decision due on removal of late Birmingham sea cadet leader Peter Sherwin’s MBE

The Forfeiture Committee is due to make an announcement over an MBE awarded to late Birmingham sea cadet leader Peter Sherwin accused of abusing boys
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A decision is expected within weeks over whether a sea cadet accused of abusing boys in his care would’ve been stripped of his MBE had he been alive today.

The announcement about shamed Peter Sherwin will be made by the Forfeiture Committee, a cabinet office that deals with the removal of gongs, in the New Year, a spokesperson for the legal firm representing victims confirmed.

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The cadets who have spoken of their ordeal at the hands of Birmingham’s Sherwin had campaigned to have his honour, bestowed in 1987, posthumously removed.

That, under the rules, cannot be done. But new guidelines allow the committee to publicly state the process of removing honours would have begun if there was a realistic prospect of a criminal conviction had the recipient been alive today.

Calls for that announcement have been made by Bolt Burdon Kemp, a law firm that has been instructed by 37 individuals whose allegations against Sherwin include sexual abuse, humiliation and even torture. One told of having a cigar stubbed on his skin, another of being whipped with a CB aerial.

Late Birmingham Sea Cadet Leader Peter Sherwin
Late Birmingham Sea Cadet Leader Peter Sherwin
Late Birmingham Sea Cadet Leader Peter Sherwin

The sea cadet organisation has paid out more than £2.5 million in out-of-court settlements. Sherwin was arrested by police in 2013 and suspended by the cadets. He was reinstated when the investigation was dropped.

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One accuser said: “I can’t take the accolades he received away from him, but when I think of people worshipping the ground he walked on, when I think he was such a monarch in the community, it sickens me.

“I was scared at his funeral. It was like a state funeral and I thought, ‘if you only knew what he did, none of you would be here’. It made me feel physically sick. To some, he was an icon. To us kids, he was a complete ****hole."

In a statement, Bold Burdon Kemp said: “Our clients’ lives have been devastated as a result of the abuse that Sherwin inflicted upon them. They cannot get justice in the criminal courts as Sherwin is dead.

“Despite the number of allegations made against Sherwin, he has never been posthumously stripped of his MBE. One of our clients in particular raised Sherwin’s MBE with us, because he felt troubled that Sherwin had lived his life with this honour bestowed upon him, when the truth was, he was undeserving of it.” Under the new guidelines, a formal statement can be made by the Forfeiture Committee if:

  • The allegations of criminal behaviour are raised within 10 years of death
  • The allegations are reported to the police
  • The police have deemed the allegations sufficiently serious to warrant obtaining a full witness statement.
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Bolt Burdon Kemp asked the Forfeiture Committee to take action in March and discussed the issue in October. The legal firm said today that a decision is expected in the New Year.

In a statement issued in 2021, the Sea Cadets said: “Sea Cadets unreservedly apologises for any hurt or anger felt by any victim of abuse. We are investigating the claims regarding the late Peter Sherwin. Based on an independent review of all records across the charity, and on interviews with former employees still alive whom we can trace, the first the charity were aware of any claims related to the accused was in June, 2013, when our safeguarding team were contacted by West Midlands Police.

“Following his arrest on October 14, 2013, Mr Sherwin was immediately suspended from Sea Cadets. The police case was dropped in mid-November, 2013, due to lack of evidence. We ask anyone with any information to share it.

“Sea Cadets takes safeguarding concerns very seriously and has a zero tolerance approach to any abuse. Our specialist safeguarding team manages all safeguarding cases in line with the charity’s safeguarding policy and procedures and statutory responsibilities. The charity has a 24/7 safeguarding incident reporting line.

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“All staff and volunteers are recruited following ‘safer recruitment practices’, including enhanced criminal record checks for all who work directly with children and young people. The charity promotes a culture of safety alongside our own safeguarding support systems, including whistle-blowing procedures, we promote external support organisations including NSPCC and Childline.

“As part of the training of all cadets, we have a dedicated programme called Shout! that teaches cadets how to identify and report any concerns. Our culture encourages our cadets, volunteers and employees to speak up, disclose and confront any issues. It is our aim to provide safe spaces for all to feel they can trust their environment enough to learn, grow and flourish.”

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