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Gay and bi men convicted under abolished homophobic laws to be pardoned in Scotland

Emma Powys Maurice October 15, 2019

The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Act has now taken effect in Scotland (Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto/Getty)

Gay and bisexual men in Scotland wrongfully convicted under discriminatory anti-gay laws will now receive an automatic pardon.

The formal pardons will be issued as part of the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Act, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2018.

Sex in private between two men aged over 21 was legalised in Scotland in 1981, but the “offences” of gross indecency and buggery were not deleted from the statutes until 2004 and convictions were retained on official records.

This meant the men had to carry the stigma of a criminal conviction which showed up on criminal record checks, in some cases affecting employability.

First minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon issued an official apology for this in 2017, saying: “Today, categorically and wholeheartedly, as first minister I apologise for those laws, and for the hurt and the harm that they caused.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Glasgow Pride (Getty)

“Nothing this parliament does can erase those injustices. But I hope that this apology, alongside our new legislation, can provide some comfort to those who endured them.”

As of today, October 15, Scottish men with such convictions can now apply to have them removed from central criminal records under a ‘disregards’ scheme.

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: “There is no place for homophobia, ignorance and hatred in modern Scotland. This landmark legislation provides an automatic pardon to men convicted of same-sex sexual activity, which is now entirely legal.

“We have been working closely with Police Scotland and other partners to ensure the ‘disregard’ scheme is clear and effective and has appropriate safeguards in place.

“This legislation makes good on the commitments made by the first minister, who gave an unqualified apology for the now outdated and discriminatory laws, and for the harm they caused to many.”

WWII codebreaker Alan Turing
World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency for consensual homosexual sex in 1952 (Creative Commons)

UK Home Office accused of “refusing recompense”.

This comes after the UK Home Office was accused of failing to erase the vast majority of gay sex convictions because their applications did not meet the appropriate criteria.

The Protection of Freedoms Bill was introduced in 2012 for the purpose of allowing those with convictions for gay consensual sex to apply for them to be deleted.

But an investigation by The Guardian revealed that fewer than 200 of these wrongful convictions have been officially erased since the scheme was introduced seven years ago – a failure rate of 71 percent.

Thousands were unable to obtain pardons because the offence they were convicted of – importuning, also known as cottaging – is not one of those eligible, despite the government acknowledging it was used in a discriminatory way.

Campaigners have said others are put off from even applying by an intimidating, bureaucratic system.

 

 

More: gay pardon, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland, sodomy anti-gay laws

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