The Protection of Freedoms Act, which will enable men to wipe the records of thousands of convictions for consensual gay sex under now-repealed laws, has received Royal Assent today.

The promise to disregard the convictions and wipe criminal records was announced by David Cameron on PinkNews.co.uk before last year’s election.

An estimated 16,000 convictions could now be eligible for removal from police records along with malicious convictions for “loitering with intent”.

The amendments were first announced following a question submitted by a PinkNews.co.uk reader in a Questions and Answer session with Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the 2010 General Election which saw him take office.

Men may now apply to the Secretary of State to disregard convictions under section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, the offence of buggery, under section 13 of that Act, covering gross indecency between men and under section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, which governed “the abominable Crime of Buggery, committed either with Mankind or with any Animal”, as long as those involved were over the age of 16 and the action would not now be regarded as an offence.

In 1994, the age of consent for gay men was reduced from 21 to 18, and in 2000, it was reduced further to 16, equalising with the age of consent for straight people.

However, the change in that law was not retroactive, so there also remained a number of people required to disclose a criminal record for a sexual offence, despite the action that they took part in having subsequently become legal.

Convictions needed to be disclosed when applying for certain jobs and for volunteering in hospitals or with children as they had to be listed on a person’s Criminal Records Bureau certificate.

Mr Cameron had written on PinkNews.co.uk in April 2010: “We will change the law so that any past convictions for consensual homosexual sexual activities, which have since become lawful, will be treated as spent, and will not be disclosed on a criminal record check when applying for a job. This is a question of justice – and it’s right that we should change the law and wipe the slate clean.”

Peter Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk today: “It’s estimated that over the last century in the region of 100,000 men in the UK were convicted of consenting same-sex offences that were not crimes between heterosexual men and women. Many had their lives ruined, including serving prison sentences, losing their jobs and suffering rejection by their families.

“This reform is welcome but it will come too late for many of the victims of Britain’s homophobic laws. It’s astonishing to think that the King Henry VIII anti-buggery law and the Oscar Wilde gross indecency law were only repealed in 2003.”

Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall, which gave evidence to the Public Bill Committee considering the Protection of Freedoms Bill, said today: “Victorian morality has absolutely no place in 21st-century Britain.

“We know of many gay men with homophobic convictions on their records who have been dissuaded from looking for work or volunteering their time to good causes. They will be delighted by this important new law, which will help many men look forward to a brighter future. We hope the new measures will now be implemented as quickly as possible.”

Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, Adrian Trett said: “The Protection of Freedoms Act is a major win for the LGBT rights.

“Gay and bisexual men who were convicted for acts that are now perfectly legal will finally be able to get them deleted from their criminal records. It marks the end of the overhang from a bygone era when being gay was still criminalised.

“It shows the determination of the Liberal Democrats and the Coalition Government to do the right thing. The march for equal rights is not over yet but with today’s news and the consultation on how to introduce equal marriage, we’re steadily chipping away at the final hurdles.”