Ministers waiting for Harvey Weinstein to be convicted of a criminal offence before stripping him of a British honour are guilty of “an insult to women everywhere”, a campaigning MP has said.
The Miramax founder sparked the Me Too movement in 2017, when he was accused by more than 80 women of sexual harassment, assault or rape, yet he retains a CBE for services to film awarded by the Queen in 2004.
The UK government can advise the sovereign to revoke a title where the recipient has brought the honours system into disrepute.
Senior civil servants on the Cabinet Office forfeiture committee are investigating whether Weinstein should be stripped of the title, but Shadow Business Minister Chi Onwurah has discovered they have advised ministers not to act until Weinstein is declared guilty in court.
The millionaire 67-year-old ex-producer is reported to have used his considerable wealth to settle cases with his victims out of court over the course of decades.
He is currently facing trial in New York having hired his third team of lawyers. Weinstein is charged with five criminal counts based on alleged rape and sexual misconduct incidents involving two women, with one alleged victim dating from 2006 and another from 2004.
The committee can take into account not only whether a person has a criminal record but if they have been censured by a body directly linked to the reason they were honoured.
Weinstein has been expelled from the Academy of Motion Pictures, French president Emmanuel Macron has revoked his French Legion of Honour award, BAFTA terminated his fellowship and Harvard University rescinded his Du Bois Medal.
Labour MP Onwurah has been writing letters to the Cabinet Office and the House of Lords Appointments Commission dating back to 2017, begging UK power-holders to act.
In a note to Onwurah, the appointments commission said the UK can act but “the committee is not able to conduct investigations” and “you will note that Mr Weinstein is due to stand trial in the USA on a number of criminal charges”.
Onwurah told HuffPost UK: “Weinstein was not primarily about Hollywood or film stars or celebrity but about women’s safety and empowerment in the workplace.
“The fact that he remains honoured for his contribution to that workplace – the UK film sector – is an insult to women everywhere, sends a terrible message about how we value working women and undermines those still waiting to tell their stories.
“The position is apparently that we outsource judgement to the legal system of another country, in the knowledge that Weinstein is using his considerable power and money to settle cases and delay justice. This brings the honours system into disrepute.”
In one letter to the Cabinet Office committee, the MP says: “Years after provoking the Me Too movement, Mr Weinstein remains honoured by the British state for his services to the film industry. I find that disgraceful.”
HuffPost UK has contacted the Cabinet Office for com.
Alex Morrow, of the House of Lords Appointments Commission/Honours and Appointments Secretariat, said in a reply to Onwurah: “The Forfeiture Committee is able to recommend to the sovereign that an individual should have their honour revoked if they are deemed to have brought the honours system into disrepute.
“However, the committee is not able to conduct investigations. Instead it will reflect the decisions made by those official bodies which do have that
“Although it would not be appropriate to discuss deliberations in any individual case, you will note that Mr Weinstein is due to stand trial in the USA on a number of criminal charges. That trial begins in June 2019.”