Gay and bisexual men convicted of abolished sex offences to be pardoned
UK Government justice minister Sam Gyimah MP - Image credit: Paul Heartfield
Thousands of gay and bisexual men who were convicted of sexual offences that have now been abolished are to receive posthumous pardons in a landmark victory for campaigners.
The measures will see formal pardons for those convicted over consensual same-sex relationships before homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK.
It follows a UK Government pledge to amend the law after World War Two code-breaker Alan Turing was pardoned in 2013.
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Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said the move was “hugely important”. The Liberal Democrats, who led the campaign for convictions to be quashed, heralded the announcement as a “momentous day”.
Anyone convicted of such offences can apply through the Home Office to have their names cleared through the disregard process, which removes any mention of an offence from criminal record checks.
They will also receive a new, automatic statutory pardon, once their names have been successfully deleted through the disregard process.
Around 50,000 people, of whom 15,000 are still living, were convicted for consensual same-sex acts, which were decriminalised by the Sexual Offences Act 1967.
Gyimah said it was "hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today".
He said the changes would be implemented via an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill lodged by the Lib Dems.
"Through pardons and the existing disregard process we will meet our manifesto commitment to put right these wrongs," he said.
But the UK Government said it would not support a Private Members’ Bill lodged by the SNP MP John Nicholson which proposes a blanket pardon for the living without the need to go through the disregard process.
Gyimah said: "A blanket pardon, without the detailed investigations carried out by the Home Office under the disregard process, could see people guilty of an offence which is still a crime today claiming to be pardoned.
"This would cause an extraordinary and unnecessary amount of distress to victims and for this reason the Government cannot support the Private Members’ Bill. Our way forward will be both faster and fairer."
MPs will debate the bill on Friday.