A scheme that deletes records of people convicted under scrapped laws criminalizing consent to homosexuality will be used to cover other offenses such as solicitation, the government has said.
Under the existing scheme introduced in 2017, known informally as Turing’s law, people who have historical beliefs about wiretapping or gross obscenity between men are able to get the offenses erased from their records.
However, individuals seeking to clear their records have experienced difficulties as the current scheme only applies to certain offenses – those that were clearly focused on sexual activity – while police often used a number of other offenses, such as solicitation, to target gay and bisexual men to pursue consensual sex.
Following pressure from LGBT + advocates, an amendment to the Police, Crime, Judgment and Courts Bill would extend the criteria to include any repealed or abolished civil or military offense imposed on anyone solely for or because of same-sex sexual activity.
The conditions must still be met in order for disregard and pardon to be granted, including that all others involved must be 16 years of age and that the sexual activity must not constitute an offense today.
The Home Office confirmed it would move the change following pressure from Stonewall co-founder Lord Cashman and conservative peer Lord Lexden.
Lord Lexden said earlier this year that it was “a mockery of homosexuals” that the scheme had not been extended, while Lord Cashman has argued that existing measures “are significantly flawed because they cover only a small fraction of the laws which, for decades and centuries, has deepened the lives of homosexuals and bisexuals ”.
He had pointed out that “the crime of solicitation from men who were used to capture gay and bisexual men, sometimes for doing nothing but talking to another adult man” would not have been included in the original scheme .
Homosexuality was partially decriminalized in 1967 when homosexuality between two men over the age of 21 was made legal for the first time.
However, the change in the law did not end the police persecution. It was first in 2003 that homosexuality was legalized “when more than two persons participate” in England and the minimum age was equalized to 16.
Lord Lexden, Lord Cashman and Professor Paul Johnson – who had also worked on the campaign – welcomed the news.
They said: “For five years, the three of us have worked together on behalf of homosexuals in the armed forces and in civilian life, who suffered serious injustice because of cruel laws that discriminated against them in the past.
“Now that Parliament has repealed these laws, it has a duty to wipe away the horrible stains they have wrongly put on the reputations of countless homosexuals over the centuries.
“The existing legal arrangements to do this are too narrowly drawn. Many homosexuals who have been victims of past injustices are excluded from them. This is especially true of individuals in our armed forces, brave people whose careers in our country were suddenly ruined. .
“We have been pushing the government since 2016 to expand the override and pardon schemes through which the reputation of individuals can be fully restored. The government has now promised to make changes to the legislation that is currently in place for the Lords. It has done so in close consultation with us. In a few weeks, legislation will be in place that will allow thousands of homosexuals who have been seriously injured to wipe their records clean.
“We are delighted that our long campaign will finally bring many homosexuals, both living and dead, the compensation they deserve.”
Interior Minister Priti Patel said: “It is only true that where offenses have been abolished, convictions for consensual activity between same-sex partners should also be disregarded.
“I hope that an extension of the pardon and disregard system will help rectify the injustices of the past and assure members of the LGBT community that Britain is one of the safest places in the world to call home.”
Additional reporting from the Press Association