Today the Government posthumously pardoned all gay and bi men who were convicted under pernicious laws in the last century that enabled the police to criminalise people for being who they are, and crucially that pardon was accompanied by a clear apology to everyone, both living and now dead, persecuted under these laws in the past.
The posthumous pardon was included in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which received Royal Assent today.
This is an important milestone, and will help draw a line under the damage caused to many thousands of lives.
Many, including Stonewall, called for the pardon to automatically cover people who are still living as well as those that have died. Though the Government did not accept that argument, they were clear that their intention was that everyone who was prosecuted should be able get justice.
Since 2012, people who were prosecuted under old sexual offences laws have been able to apply to the Home Office to have their conviction deleted from their criminal record, something called a “disregard”. This is stronger than a pardon, because the Government is essentially saying no crime was committed, and the crime is physically deleted from the record. But many people have had their application rejected because the law didn’t cover all the offences that police used to persecute gay and bi men.
Thanks to amendments made by Lord Cashman in December, which were supported by the Government, the law passed today also paves the way for ensuring that everyone unfairly prosecuted for being gay and bi will soon be able to have these ‘crimes’ deleted from their record. For instance the many thousands of men who were cautioned or convicted for kissing, holding hands or just chatting up other men.
We will be working with the Government to ensure that the way the law is implemented does ensure all gay and bi men who were unjustly persecuted and prosecuted can finally receive the justice they deserve.
Meanwhile, we can celebrate the fact that we live in a country that acknowledges that we got this wrong in the past, and we mean to make amends for that. It is another step towards achieving acceptance for everyone, whoever they are.
Were you one of the thousands of men unjustly prosecuted?
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