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by Tom Freeman
07 June 2018
Formal pardon for thousands of gay Scots

Gay pride - Fotolia

Formal pardon for thousands of gay Scots

A formal pardon will be issued to thousands of gay men in Scotland who were convicted of having consensual sex before 1981, after a new law was passed unanimously by the Scottish parliament.

Consensual sex between men over the age of 21 was decriminalised in Scotland in 1981 and the age consent lowered in 2001.

Sex between women was never criminalised in the same way.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued an apology for historical convictions in November.

The new law will give an automatic symbolic pardon to anyone, living or dead, who were convicted of historical sexual offences which are now legal.

To prevent the conviction showing up in disclosure checks, the individual will still have to apply for a ‘disregard’.

The pardon will not apply for any act still illegal today, such as rape or sex with a minor.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, who brought the legislation to Parliament, said: “This marks a key moment where we address a historic wrong, where the law criminalised people simply because of their sexual orientation.

“This bill can itself not right the massive injustice caused by laws that helped foster homophobia and hatred, criminalised acts between consenting adults, and stopped people from being themselves around their families, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

“But this legislation does send a clear message that these laws were unjust. The wrong has been committed by the state, not by the individuals—the wrong has been done to them.”

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, welcomed the cross-party support, but warned LGBTI people continue to face prejudice in modern Scotland.

“This is concrete recognition of the huge harm that was done to people who were prosecuted or lived under these old laws,” he said.

“Together with the First Minister’s apology, the message is that Scotland has changed for good, and that discrimination is no longer acceptable.”

In 2013 a posthumous pardon was issued to mathemetician Alan Turing, who had been convicted of gross indecency after breaking nazi codes in world war two. This was followed last year by a further 49,000 postumous pardons in England and Wales.

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