Universal pardons for those convicted of homosexual offences on the 50th anniversary of 1967 Act
25 Jul 2017 09:54 AM
Home secretary Amber Rudd has been urged by Unite, the largest union, to institute a legal pardon for all those convicted of homosexual offences.
Unite wants the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act on 27 July, which decriminalised homosexual acts between men aged over 21, to be a launch pad to extend the Alan Turing ‘pardon’ to all categories of offences. An estimated 15,000 people could benefit.
Earlier this year, the Policing and Crime Act extended pardons to those convicted of homosexual offences which were no longer on the statute book. The pardon was modelled on the one granted in 2013 to mathematician Alan Turing, who broke the wartime Enigma codes, but committed suicide in 1954 after a conviction for gross indecency.
Unite national officer for equalities Siobhan Endean said: “Unite’s LGBT committee is very supportive of the call from our grassroot activists that Amber Rudd sets aside all historical convictions of homosexual men for importuning and soliciting for an immoral purpose.
“These laws were used extensively for the prosecution and conviction of gay men for decades both before and after the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts in 1967 – we estimate that 15,000 people would benefit from such a move.
“It is hard to imagine in 2017 the twilight world of fear and exposure that gay people had to endure in 1950s Britain. We need to acknowledge, as a country, that lives were broken and careers were ruined as a result.”
Long-time gay rights campaigner and Unite branch chair in Islington Terry Stewart, who has one conviction that he would like expunged, recently appeared in Channel 4’s documentary Convicted for Love.
Terry Stewart said: “What this means is that those prosecuted under this anti-gay law continue to this day to have a criminal record; they continue to be haunted by an historic injustice, which, in many cases, damaged their careers, blighted their social lives, and undermined their personal relationships.
“Amber Rudd has it within her power to bring this injustice to an end, by setting aside all these historic convictions and we call on her to do so as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.”
The recent legislation has some omissions – it does not, for example, explicitly allow for the pardoning of men convicted for soliciting and procuring homosexual relations under the 1956 and 1967 Sexual Offences Acts and for those serving in the armed services.
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