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LGBTQ

Pardons scheme extended to all gay sex convictions – including military

Priti Patel said she hopes expanding the pardons scheme will "go some way to righting the wrongs of the past".

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More gay people are going to be pardoned and have their historical criminal convictions for same-sex sexual activity wiped, including those punished under military rules.

Any conviction that was imposed on someone purely due to consensual homosexual activity under now-abolished laws will be included in a widened scheme.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the move is aimed at "righting the wrongs of the past" as she sought to expand the Government's Disregards and Pardons scheme from a narrow set of laws.

Currently, just nine former offences are included on a specified list which the Home Office said "largely focused on the repealed offences of buggery and gross indecency between men".

If someone had been convicted of a crime under these now scrapped laws, they can apply to have it disregarded – wiped from their criminal record - without requiring it to be disclosed.

But an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will broaden the criteria to include any repealed or abolished civilian or military offence that was imposed on someone purely for, or due to, consensual same-sex sexual activity.

All those whose cautions and convictions are disregarded under the scheme will also receive an automatic pardon, and anyone who has died before the changes came into place – or up to 12 months afterwards – will be posthumously pardoned.

Home Secretary Priti Patel 280121 CREDIT PA, ALAMY
Priti Patel said she hopes expanding the pardons scheme will "go some way to righting the wrongs of the past" (Picture: PA/Alamy).

Ms Patel said: "It is only right that where offences have been abolished, convictions for consensual activity between same-sex partners should be disregarded too.

"I hope that expanding the pardons and disregards scheme will go some way to righting the wrongs of the past and to reassuring members of the LGBT community that Britain is one of the safest places in the world to call home."

Ms Patel thanked peers Lord Lexden and Lord Cashman for raising the issue.

In a statement, they and Professor Paul Johnson – who also worked on the campaign – welcomed the news.

"For five years, the three of us have been working together on behalf of gay people in the Armed Forces and in civilian life, who suffered grave injustice because of cruel laws which discriminated against them in the past," they said.

"Now that Parliament has repealed those laws, it has a duty to wipe away the terrible stains which they placed, quite wrongly, on the reputations of countless gay people over the centuries.

"The existing legal arrangements to do this are too narrowly drawn. Many gay people who were the victims of past injustice are excluded from them.

"This is particularly true of individuals in our Armed Forces, brave people whose careers serving our country were suddenly destroyed.

"We are delighted that our long campaign will, at last, bring many gay people, both living and deceased, the restitution they deserve."

The Home Office said conditions would still need to be met so that a disregard and pardon can be granted, including the condition that anyone else involved must have been aged 16 or over and that the sexual activity must not constitute an offence today.

The announcement comes after LGBT+ Armed Forces veterans who were stripped of their medals had them returned ahead of Remembrance Sunday last year.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "The Disregards and Pardons Scheme includes former Service personnel who may have suffered due to this historic wrong.

"It is deeply regrettable that they were previously subject to injustice because of their sexuality and the MOD is committed to righting this historic wrong, including the restoration of medals and posthumous pardons."