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Campaigners celebrate as Northern Ireland will pardon historic gay sex offences

Joseph McCormick November 28, 2016
BBC Icons: World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing

(Creative Commons)

Men convicted of historic gay sex offences in Northern Ireland will be pardoned as a Legislative Consent Motion went ahead today.

A motion to pardon gay men convicted of now abolished sex offences was announced by Northern Irish Justice Minister Claire Sugden earlier this month, and today the LCM on the Policing and Crime Bill achieved just that.

The move will bring Northern Ireland in line with England and Wales

Plans to pardon men convicted of the offences were announced in October by the UK Government.

The motion for England and Wales has become known as ‘Turing’s Law’ after Alan Turing, the World War II codebreaker and computer genius.

The Northern Irish motion contains similar provisions which would posthumously pardon those no longer living, as well as pardoning gay and bisexual men still alive.

Ms Sugden said she had sought executive agreement to put forward a legislative consent motion to the assembly to pardon the men.

She said they would go ahead “as soon as possible to ensure that there is equal treatment for gay and bisexual men here as for their counterparts in England and Wales”.

“This is an opportunity for the criminal justice system to try and right the wrongs of the past and one which will allow for much earlier resolve than that presented by way of an assembly bill,” she continued.

Director of the Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty, welcomed the moves by the Justice Minister saying: “This is the first time that the Northern Ireland Assembly has voted in favour of LGB&T legislation. It was only in 1982 that the criminalisation of gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights and we are pleased to see these homophobic and discriminatory convictions quashed, especially as they ruined the lives of so many men in Northern Ireland at the time.”

“We recognise that this move can never fully address the hurt, pain and loss experienced by gay and bisexual men convicted of now abolished crimes and believe that those criminalised for same-sex relationships deserve an immediate apology as was afforded the family of Alan Turing. It has taken almost 35 years for the UK and Northern Ireland government to acknowledge and address the abuse, discrimination and wrongful criminalisation of our community and the legacy of this is still experienced by our community today.”

“We hope that the passing of this LCM will mark the first of many inequalities experienced by LGBT people in Northern Ireland that our Assembly will address during this mandate.”

Computing hero World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was previously granted a one-off posthumous royal pardon in 2013.

More: Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland, turing's law

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