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The Scottish Government has announced men convicted for having gay relationships under old discriminatory laws will be given a full pardon.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the government will introduce legislation to automatically absolve men convicted of same-sex sexual activity that is now lawful.

It comes just days after similar legislation was scuppered at Westminster.

Consensual sex between men between men aged over 21 were decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, but the law in Scotland was not changed until 1980.

The issue was raised at Holyrood by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who asked whether the government would “quash the convictions and cautions issued to people for now-abolished gay sexual offences and issue pardons”.

Mr Matheson told MSPs: “Such laws clearly have no place in a modern and inclusive Scotland. However, there are people with criminal convictions for same-sex sexual activity that is now lawful and we must right this wrong.

“We will introduce an automatic formal pardon for those convicted under these discriminatory laws so they know they are absolved fully. We want to address the injustice that people experienced simply because of their sexual orientation in circumstances that are now legal and this is one way of achieving this.

“Information on these convictions is held on Police Scotland records and we have engaged with Police Scotland to seek views on steps that could be taken to right these historic wrongs.

“I have instructed my officials, working in partnership with Police Scotland, to determine the practical steps required to establish a scheme to allow men convicted for actions that are now legal to seek to have those convictions disregarded.

“Where an offence is disregarded a person will be treated as not having been convicted of that offence and so it would not appear on, for example, disclosure checks.

“I know Parliament will want to work together to resolve these important issues.”

Kezia Dugdale said: “That is a hugely welcome announcement – in fact it is nothing short of a historic moment for Scotland to be a more equal and respectful country.”

Mr Matheson’s statement was also welcomed by members across the chamber, with Green MSP Patrick Harvie reiterating the importance of an apology, acknowledging that the state acted wrongly.

Tim Hopkins, Equality Network director, said: “Men in Scotland were arrested, prosecuted and sent to prison for up to a year for no more than consensual private sex with another man.

“The old offences of sodomy and gross indecency were grossly homophobic and destroyed gay and bisexual men’s lives.

“We very much welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement today that all men convicted of these crimes that are no longer crimes today will receive an automatic pardon.

“It is particularly important that the pardon is automatic, so that men do not need to apply for it.”

(Photo of Justice Secretary Michael Matheson)




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