Gay Men Who Were Convicted of ‘Sexual Offences’ Which Are No Longer Illegal Will Receive Pardons

Calls for a long overdue amendment to today's law were made after Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing was posthumously pardoned in 2013.

Gay Men Who Were Convicted of 'Sexual Offences' Which Are No Longer Illegal Will Receive Pardons

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

In news that should definitely be filed under ‘about bloody time’ the government have announced that they are going to issue pardons to gay and bisexual men who were convicted of sexual offences in England and Wales which are no longer crimes.

This follows on from what has been termed the ‘Alan Turing’ law. Second World War code breaker Alan Turing was pardoned in 2013, years after his death. Turing’s arrest for so-called sexual offences as a gay man was dramatized in the 2014 film The Imitation Game in which Benedict Cumberbatch played him. The film also portrayed the Turing’s struggle with his sexuality at a time when being gay was a criminal offence, his chemical castration and, ultimately, his death as a result of cyanide poisoning which may or may not have been suicide.

‘Turing's Law’ meant that those who had been convicted of sexual acts and were now deceased would receive an automatic pardon. Today’s announcement means that men who were convicted as a result of consensual same-sex relationships is now not only eligible to apply for a pardon but will receive one automatically.

The Sexual Offences Actdecriminalised private homosexual acts between men aged over 21 in England and Wales, in 1967.The law was not changed in Scotland until 1980, or in Northern Ireland until 1982.

The Justice Minister, Sam Gyimah MP, described this move is ‘hugely important’. The announcement makes total sense because the sort of ‘offences’ these men were convicted of are now longer considered to be criminal and haven’t been for some time. This is absolutely something to celebrate but it has been a long time coming.

Indeed, some feel that this is politicians making a tokenistic move which could easily have been put in place years ago and in no way undoes the very real harm that such draconian laws did.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme Lord Sharkey, a Lib Dem peer, who proposed this policy in the first place said that he can understand why some people may not accept an automatic pardon. However, he explained why this is automatically a positive thing:

‘A pardon is probably the best way of acknowledging the real harm done by the unjust and cruel homophobic laws, which thankfully we've now repealed. And I do hope that a lot of people will feel exactly the same way.’

According to Lord Sharkey of the 65,000 men who were convicted of such ‘offences’, 15,000 are still alive today. According to *The Guardian *the Ministry of Justice have said that there will be no historical limit when it comes to these past offences being wiped from people’s criminal records, which could include those still living today as well as men who were famously charged because of their sexuality such as Oscar Wilde.

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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