The Guardian reports:
Gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences in England and Wales are to receive posthumous pardons, the government has announced. Thousands of living men convicted over consensual same-sex relationships will also be eligible for the pardon.
Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey, who proposed the amendment to the Policing and Crimes Bill, said it was “momentous”. It follows the pardoning of World War Two code-breaker Alan Turing for gross indecency in 2013.
Under the amendment – dubbed “Turing law” – deceased people who were convicted of sexual acts that are no longer deemed criminal will receive an automatic pardon. Anyone living who has been convicted of such offences could already apply through the Home Office to have the offence wiped from their criminal records.
But now, if the Home Office agrees that the offence is no longer an offence under current law, they will automatically be pardoned. Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said it was “hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today”.
Over 15,000 men convicted under the law are still living.
George Montague, who was convicted in 1974 of gross indecency with a man, welcomed the decision, but says he wants an apology, not a pardon.
“To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything. I was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Britian’s Sexual Offences Act decriminalized private homosexual acts between men aged over 21 in England and Wales, in 1967.
The law was not changed in Scotland until 1980, or in Northern Ireland until 1982.