A bill to pardon and clear the criminal records of gay and bisexual men who were convicted of consensual homosexuality was passed unopposed by Parliament today.
Dubbed ‘Turing’s Law’, the bill will impact 65,000 men, including 15,000 who are still alive.
Lord Cashman of Limehouse introduced an amendment into the Policing and Crime Bill.
Speaking exclusively to OutNews Global, he said he had originally tried to widen the pardons given posthumously to those who are living, but this was not accepted by the government, however his other amendment, as follows, was accepted:
“It came to my attention that there were a whole raft of convictions, and cautions, for gay and male bisexual activity that are no longer crimes that had been overlooked when the issue of pardons and disregards (wiping of a conviction from the record) were originally addressed. For instance men who were arrested for trying to chat up another man, the so-called soliciting for an immoral purpose, men who might be kissing or holding hands in the street, behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace, and other activities that are no longer crimes. It was clear to me that these convictions and cautions were unjust and inappropriate and in fact were preventing people from seeking some forms of employment as well as volunteering work. I’m pleased that the government took on-board my Amendment and we have finally addressed one of the final pieces of the jigsaw of legal equality. It is not a cliche to say this, but some people’s lives will be changed for the better because of what we have done. My thanks go to Stonewall, Paul Johnson of the University of York and my ally on the Conservative benches Lord Lexden, and the government minister Baroness Williams of Trafford.”
The bill was named after Alan Turing, the mathematical genius and WWII codebreaker who committed suicide following his conviction for gross indecency. He was posthumously pardoned by the Queen in 2013.
Lib Dem peer, Lord Sharkey and Conservative Lord Lexden had also tabled amendments which will be accepted.
Brandon Lewis, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, issued a formal apology to the victims.
“I want to take the opportunity to apologise unreservedly, on behalf of the government, to all those men who will receive a pardon,” he said.
“The legislation under which they were convicted and cautioned was discriminatory and homophobic. I want to make sure that all who were criminalised in this way and had to suffer society’s opprobrium, and the many more who lived in fear of being so criminalised because they were being treated in a very different way from heterosexual couples, actually understand that we offer this full apology.
“Their treatment was entirely unfair. What happened to these men is a matter of the greatest regret, and it should be so to all of us. I am sure it is to Members across the House. For this, we are today deeply sorry,” said Lewis.
The Policing and Crime Bill is expected to gain Royal Assent “within weeks”.
The Sexual Offences Act decriminalised private homosexual acts between men aged over 21 in England and Wales, in 1967.