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Conservatives pledge to pardon historic gay sex offences in manifesto

Nick Duffy April 14, 2015

The Conservative Party has pledged to extend pardons to gay men convicted of historic sex offences.

Earlier this year, relatives of gay codebreaker Alan Turing delivered a petition to Downing Street last week calling for the 49,000 men convicted under anti-gay laws to be pardoned – after Turing received a one-off pardon in 2011.

David Cameron already ensured that people with historic gay sex convictions who are still alive can already have them expunged under 2012’s Protection of Freedoms Act – but records cannot be expunged posthumously.

However, the Conservative Party has pledged to go further in its manifesto, launched today – calling for new legislation to pardon men convicted under the laws who are deceased.

The manifesto says: “Our historic introduction of gay marriage has helped drive forward equality and strengthened the institution of marriage. But there is still more to do, and we will continue to champion equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

“We will build on the posthumous pardon of Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing, who committed suicide following his conviction for gross indecency, with a broader measure to lift the blight of outdated convictions of this nature. Thousands of British men still suffer from similar historic charges, even though they would be completely innocent of any crime today.

“Many others are dead and cannot correct this injustice themselves through the legal process we have introduced while in government. So we will introduce a new law that will pardon those people, and right these wrongs.”

The move means all three main parties now agree on the issue, with Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem justice minister Simon Hughes both recently pledging that their parties will bring forward legislation on the issue.

Mr Miliband later clarified his commitment was to wipe out the records entirely – not to ‘pardon’ them, which would still technically mean they were guilty of a crime. PinkNews has approached the Conservative Party to clarify the manifesto point.

Writing in Gay Times earlier this year, PinkNews publisher Benjamin Cohen wrote:  “The last mass pardoning, in 2006, of those executed for deserting their posts during World War One, was very specific in that the men’s historic criminal records would remain intact.

“They were still guilty, just pardoned. Even Alan Turing’s pardon, did not acknowledge that the sexual act he was convicted of should never have been illegal. In simple terms, the pardon was the state forgiving him and the Queen exercising her royal prerogative of mercy. How is this better than actually wiping these incorrect convictions from history?”

The Conservative commitment comes as a surprise, as Whitehall sources previously accused the party of blocking progress on the issue in this government.

A source claimed in February that the plans are being held up over fears pardons could inadvertently help paedophiles – as not all records of gay sex convictions make clear if a minor was involved.

Elsewhere in the manifesto, the party pledges to abolish the Human Rights Act – which has previously led to a number of advances on LGBT issues.

It says: “The next Conservative Government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights. This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.”

Prime Minister David Cameron previously announced that measure at last year’s Conservative Party conference.

 

More: Alan Turing, Conservative, Crime, David Cameron, England, Gay, historic, LGBT, pardon, pardons, party, Sex, Tory

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