New government scheme will allow more people to have historical same-sex activity convictions wiped
A new rule will allow more people who were convicted under historical same sex activity laws to apply for their criminal records to be wiped
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Historical convictions linked to homosexual activity could be quashed as new rules come into force to allow for more pardons.
From Tuesday 13 June, newly installed rules will allow those convicted or cautioned under now-abolished offences linked to same sex relations to apply for their criminal records to be wiped. The new rules will also allow more military veterans - including women - to apply for pardons if they were found guilty under service law.
Those who were unjustly criminalised for the historic crimes will see convictions deleted from their official records, and be officially pardoned. Those affected will be able to apply for the scheme through an online form on gov.uk.
Minister for Safeguarding, Sarah Dines, said: “The appalling criminalisation of homosexuality is a shameful and yet not so distant part of our history. Although they can never be undone, the disregards and pardons scheme has gone some way to right the wrongs of the past.
“I am proud that from today the scheme has been significantly widened to include more repealed offences. I invite all of those who were convicted or cautioned for same-sex sexual activity under an abolished offence to come forward and apply.”
Convictions or cautions eligible for the scheme will be those in which the other party in the activity was over the age of 16. It will also include same sex legislation which has since been repealed.
Homosexual acts were partially decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, in Scotland in 1981 and in Northern Ireland one year later. It wasn't until the early 21st century that all restrictions on homosexual relationships were removed across the UK, the last being Scotland to repeal laws in 2009.
It comes after a similar rule was introduced in 2012, in which men were able to apply for the overturning of convictions or cautions for consensual sex with another man. It was announced in 2022 that new thresholds were being developed to allow women to apply for similar historical offences, with a wider range of civilian and service offences also included.
Craig Jones MBE, executive chair and Caroline Paige, chief executive of Fighting With Pride said: “This extension to the disregards and pardons scheme and its inclusion of female veterans is welcome and another small step in the right direction. We will continue to work very closely with the Ministry of Defence and other government departments to ensure the vulnerable veterans in this cohort get all the support available to them.”
Rob Cookson, deputy chief executive of the LGBT Foundation said: “People should never be criminalised simply for who they are and who they love. The criminalisation of gay men made a huge, terrible impact on many people in our community.
“It is only right that the disregards and pardons scheme has been widened.”
Who was convicted for homosexuality in the United Kingdom?
Notable cultural figures were among the thousands of members of the LGBT community who were found guilty of same-sex activity crimes under now-defunct laws. This included celebrated Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde.
While living in London, Wilde was imprisoned in 1895 after being convicted of gross indecency. He was convicted after the Marquess of Queensbury, the mother of his partner Lord Alfred Douglas, accused him of conducting a homosexual relationship with her son and Wilde took her to trial for libel.
During the trial, Queensbury provided evidence that her claims were true including testimony from male sex workers who had engaged in relations with Wilde. He dropped the case when confronted with the evidence and a warrant was issued for his immediate arrest.
The lauded author was convicted and jailed for two years. This was the maximum sentence for the crime.
Another notable name who was convicted under now-defunct law was renowned mathematician and ground-breaking World War Two codebreaker Alan Turning.
In 1952, 39-year-old Turing was prosecuted for a homosexual relationship with his 19-year-old partner Arnold Murray. At the time, same-sex acts were illegal in the UK and both men were charged with ‘gross indecency’ under the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.
Turing entered a guilty plea and in a bid to avoid jail time, elected to undergo chemical castration. The computer scientist, who changed the course of WWII for Britain after cracking the German ‘Enigma’ code, also had his security clearance stripped from him and was barred from working with the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
He was officially pardoned of the crime in 2013, when Queen Elizabeth II used her power of royal pardons to exonerate Turning with immediate effect. The 2017 amnesty law, which retroactively pardoned men convicted or cautioned under historical anti-homosexual activity laws, is now informally known as the ‘Alan Turning law’. Wilde was also one of those men pardoned in the amnesty.