“Instead of tinkering with the criminal record system, the government should grant a full pardon to all men convicted of consenting homosexual behaviour that has ceased to be a crime,” urges human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“It is estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 men were convicted of victimless offences between 1885 and 2003. In 1989 alone, there were over 2,000 convictions for the consensual gay offence of ‘gross indecency’ – an offence that only applied to sexual contact between men and not to comparable heterosexual behaviour.
“These men were unjustly convicted under discriminatory laws. To put right this historic wrong, they deserve a pardon,” he said.
Mr Tatchell has questioned the government’s claim late last week that its Protection of Freedoms Bill will “delete” historic gay offences that are no longer criminal offences:
“Contrary to what the Home Office is suggesting, the government is not planning to delete past gay convictions for consensual offences. Clause 85 of the Protection of Freedoms Bill merely instructs the police to disregard them. This is not the same as deleting them,” added Mr Tatchell.
See Clause 85, and sub-clause (5), here:
“The convictions will remain in the criminal record but they will not have to be disclosed and the police and other agencies will not be allowed to cite them or use them against a person when they apply for a job or get stopped in the street.
“However, the convictions will still appear in police files and could influence police perceptions of a gay person who they question on an unrelated matter.
“Instead of merely disregarding past gay offences that were consenting and are no longer criminal, the government should grant a full pardon to all gay and bisexual men convicted of behaviour that was not a crime for heterosexual men and women.
“This pardon should embrace not just men convicted of sexual acts, but also those who were convicted for mere loitering, chatting up, looking at other men, exchanging names and addresses, aiding and abetting gay sex and the myriad other discriminatory, homophobic laws that remained on the statue book until 2003,” said Mr Tatchell.