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Labour’s Andy Burnham wants ‘automatic pardons’ for historic gay sex offences

Nick Duffy July 17, 2015
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Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham has called for gay men convicted of historic sex offences to be automatically pardoned.

Earlier this year, relatives of gay codebreaker Alan Turing delivered a petition to Downing Street 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 have them expunged under 2012’s Protection of Freedoms Act – but records cannot currently be expunged posthumously.

Labour’s Andy Burnham has called for all historic gay sex convictions, for acts that would be not be illegal today, to be automatically disregarded.

He told PinkNews:  “Alan Turing made a remarkable contribution to our country, but it is not only national heroes that deserve to have their suffering atoned for. Tens of thousands of men were treated appallingly and every one of these convictions is equally shameful.

“I was one of the first Labour frontbenchers to call for equal marriage and I believe the next frontier is a law to remove this shadow from our national history.

“It would send a strong message to millions of LGBT individuals around the world, who still live in fear of persecution, and to the Governments and national leaders that refuse to recognise equal rights.”

Mr Burnham – who is renewing a similar pledge made by former Labour leader Ed Miliband – would seek to pass a formal statutory pardon through a Bill of Parliament if elected.

Labour MP Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Automatic pardons are appropriate in these cases not only to mark the grossly unjust basis of the convictions but also to send a powerful message to the world about the unacceptability of similar anti-gay laws still in existence.”

Prior the the election, David Cameron had pledged to act on the issue to extend the pardon granted to Mr Turing –  but the measure was not confirmed in the new government’s first Queen’s Speech.

The Conservative Party manifesto said earlier this year: “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who committed suicide following his conviction for gross indecency, with a broader measure to lift the blight of outdated convictions of this nature.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.”

 

Related topics: Andy Burnham, anti-gay law, conviction, England, Gay, Labour, mp, pardon, Sex, sodomy

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