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UK pardons thousands of men convicted of historic gay sex offences

Joseph McCormick January 31, 2017
BBC Icons: World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing

(Creative Commons)

Thousands of men convicted of historic gay sex offences have been pardoned under Turing’s Law, as promised by the UK Government.

The Policing and Crime Bill was today given Royal Assent, meaning amendments pardoning those convicted of being in consensual same-sex relationships.

As well as the posthumous pardons, the Bill also enables living gay men to apply though the Home Office’s disregard process to have their historic offences removed.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “This is a truly momentous day. We can never undo the hurt caused, but we have apologised and taken action to right these wrongs.

“I am immensely proud that ‘Turing’s Law’ has become a reality under this government.”

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. However, the new law has disregarded the offences of thousands of men.

Anyone living who has been convicted of these now abolished offences could already apply through the Home Office to have their names cleared and criminal records expunged, under a process introduced by the Coalition government’s 2012 Protections of Freedoms Act.

However, the new law goes further in granting posthumous pardons, also introducing a statutory pardon for the living. in cases where offences have been successfully deleted through the disregard process.

Some campaigners have spoken out to say that sweeping pardons are not the best idea, and that holding authorities to account and remembering the past is a better option.

PinkNews journalist Benjamin Butterworth spoke to 5News about the story:

Pardon for thousands of gay men

"Some families would have preferred an apology" – Benjamin Butterworth from PinkNews on the posthumous pardon for 49,000 gay and bisexual men

#AlanTuring #TuringsLaw

Posted by Channel 5 News on Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Former Prime Minister David Cameron said he would “look into” pardoning men convicted of historic gay sex offences back in 2013.

The Conservative Party then in 2015 pledged to extend pardons to gay men convicted of historic sex offences in its manifesto.

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

Of the England and Wales legislation, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah previously said: “It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today.

“Through pardons and the existing disregard process we will meet our manifesto commitment to put right these wrongs.”

The Government plans to secure the change by supporting Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey’s amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 through the Policing and Crime Bill.

Commenting on the news that the Government will support the Liberal Democrat amendment, the author of the amendment, Lord Sharkey said: “This is a momentous day for thousands of families up and down the UK who have been campaigning on this issue for decades. I am very grateful for the Government’s support and the support of many of my colleagues in Parliament.

“It is a wonderful thing that we have been able to build on the pardon granted to Alan Turing during Coalition by extending it to the thousands of men convicted of sexual offences that existed before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967 and which would not be crimes today.”

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron MP added: “The Liberal Democrats continue to be the strongest voice on equality in Parliament.

“This was a manifesto commitment which even in opposition, thanks to the tireless work of our MPs and peers and those from other parties, we have been able to deliver on.”

More: Alan Turing, Codebreaker, Gay, Law, LGBT, pardon

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