All historic gay sex convictions under now-abolished UK laws look set to be pardoned

All historic gay sex convictions under now-abolished UK laws look set to be pardoned
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Thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of historic offences under old anti-gay laws will have their records wiped clean as the UK pardons scheme looks set to be expanded.

 

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is hoping to ‘right the wrongs of the past’, by broadening the government’s Disregards and Pardons Scheme to include more offences relating to homosexual activity under old laws that criminalised consensual gay sex.

 

The widening of the scheme would mean that anyone convicted or cautioned purely due to consensual same-sex activity under now-abolished legislation can apply to have it wiped from their criminal record, with no requirement to disclose it in the future.

 

People in England and Wales have been able to apply to have some historical same-sex sexual cautions and convictions disregarded since 2012. Under the existing 2017 Turing’s Law – named after gay wartime codebreaker Alan Turing – if someone had been convicted of a crime under these now-defunct laws, they can apply to have it disregarded, wiped from their criminal record and not be required to be disclosed.

 

However, as campaigners pointed out, the crimes currently covered by the scheme are too narrow. Currently, just nine former offences are included on a specified list which, according to the Home Office, are “largely focused on the repealed offences of buggery and gross indecency between men”.

 

Back in November, Lord Michael Cashman CBE, who worked on the campaign alongside Tory peer Lord Lexden, agued that ‘the disregard and pardon schemes in England and Wales are significantly flawed because they encompass only a small fraction of the laws that, over the decades and centuries, have immiserated the lives of gay and bisexual people’.

 

For example, the ‘offence of solicitation by men, which was used to entrap gay and bisexual men, sometimes for doing nothing more than chatting up another adult man’ did not fall under the umbrella of the current scheme. 

 

The government now intend to make an amendment to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill to broaden the criteria, meaning it will be widened to include any repealed or abolished civilian or military offence that was imposed on someone purely for, or due to, consensual same-sex sexual activity.

 

All those whose cautions and convictions are disregarded under the scheme will receive an automatic pardon, and anyone who has died before the changes came into place – or up to 12 months afterwards – will be posthumously pardoned.

 

Some conditions will still need to be met for the disregard and pardon to be approved – they must show the consenting partner they had sex with was over the age of 16 and “the sexual activity must not constitute an offence today.”

 

 

Patel said of the expansion: “It is only right that where offences have been abolished, convictions for consensual activity between same-sex partners should be disregarded too.”

Continuing: “I hope that expanding the pardons and disregards scheme will go some way to righting the wrongs of the past and to reassuring members of the LGBT community that Britain is one of the safest places in the world to call home.”

She also thanked peers Lord Cashman and Lord Lexden for raising the issue.

 

Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley welcomed the move, saying: ‘It is wonderful to wake up this morning to see pardons extended for historic convictions of gay and bi men – criminalised for being who they are and loving who they love.’

 

In a joint statement, Lord Lexden, Lord Cashman, and Professor Paul Johnson – who had also worked on the campaign – welcomed the news: “For five years, the three of us have been working together on behalf of gay people in the armed forces and in civilian life, who suffered grave injustice because of cruel laws which discriminated against them in the past.”

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