New Zealand’s government has ruled out a system to pardon those convicted under historic anti-gay laws – because rapists were convicted under the same law.

Gay sex was illegal in New Zealand under British Colonial laws from 1840 for over 100 years, until the Homosexual Law Reform Act decriminalised homosexuality in 1986.

Hundreds of men were convicted under the law before its repeal.

Individuals with gay sex convictions can currently apply to have the offences struck off – but the country’s government has ruled out taking any broad action to remedy the historic injustice in one go.

A spokesperson for Minister of Justice Amy Adams told news site GayNZ: “It’s impossible to tell whether they involved consensual acts or not after the event, because of the way the law was written.”

They explained: “The Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 removed criminal sanctions for consensual homosexual conduct between adult males, repealing a range of offences and substituting new offences that continued to criminalise sexual activity with males under 16 years of age.

“The electronic data the Ministry is able to access only goes back to 1980. It indicates that between 1 July 1980 and 8 August 1986, 879 men were convicted of homosexuality related offences.

“Nearly 80% (689 men) were convicted of sexual offences involving males under 16, which continue to be criminal offences.

“There were 109 and 59 convictions respectively for doing or permitting an indecent act with a male over 16 but the electronic data does not indicate whether these acts were consensual.”

They added: “I don’t think it makes sense to pardon them because most of them were criminal offences anyway and in fact the ones that aren’t – it’s hard to know whether it would be or not, because offences didn’t talk about consensual or not.”