The United Kingdom has announced a significant expansion of its scheme to pardon and disregard historical convictions for consensual same-sex activity, a move that aims to address the injustices of the past and affirm the value of every individual.
The Home Office said on Tuesday that anyone who was convicted or cautioned under any repealed or abolished offences relating to same-sex activity can now apply for a pardon and have their records wiped. This includes women and armed forces veterans who were previously excluded from the scheme.
“The appalling criminalisation of homosexuality is a shameful and yet not so distant part of our history,” said Sarah Dines, the minister for safeguarding. “Although they can never be undone, the disregards and pardons scheme has gone some way to righting the wrongs of the past.”
The scheme was launched in 2012 for England and Wales, following the posthumous pardon of Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and codebreaker who was convicted of gross indecency for homosexual acts in 1952. It was later extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
However, the scheme only covered a limited list of offences, mostly focused on buggery and gross indecency between men. It also did not apply to service offences, which were used to prosecute members of the armed forces for their sexuality.
The new amendment, which was passed as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, broadens the scope of the scheme to cover any civilian or military offence that was imposed on someone purely for, or due to, consensual same-sex sexual activity. It also enables those who have died prior to the amendment coming into force, and within a year after the amendment comes into force, to be posthumously pardoned.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she hoped that expanding the scheme “will go some way to righting the wrongs of the past and to reassuring members of the LGBT community that Britain is one of the safest places in the world to call home.”
The announcement was welcomed by LGBT rights campaigners and veterans’ groups, who have been lobbying for years for a more comprehensive and inclusive scheme.
“Parliament has a duty to wipe away the terrible stains which they placed, quite wrongly, on the reputations of countless gay people over centuries,” said Lord Cashman, Lord Lexden and Prof Paul Johnson, who worked on the campaign.
Johnny Mercer, the minister for veterans’ affairs, said the treatment of LGBT personnel and veterans prior to 2000 was “wholly unacceptable,” and that he would continue working to ensure every veteran’s service and experience was valued and recognised.
Craig Jones and Caroline Paige, chief executives of Fighting With Pride, an LGBT veterans’ charity, 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,” they added.
–UK to wipe women’s historic convictions for homosexuality, PinkNews, 13 June 2023
–UK expands pardon scheme for same-sex convictions to include women, Thaiger, 13 June 2023
–UK expands pardon scheme for historical gay convictions, Thaiger, 13 June 2023
–UK to pardon historical homosexual convictions for women and veterans, Yahoo News UK, 13 June 2023