UK expands pardon scheme for historical gay convictions

The UK government has expanded its rules to pardon more individuals with historical convictions related to homosexuality. Starting this week, those who were convicted or cautioned for offences linked to same-sex activities that have since been abolished can apply to have their records expunged. This change will enable more veterans to apply for the removal of convictions that were brought under service law. The plans, announced last year, aim to pardon those unjustly criminalised and delete their convictions from official records.

Previously, members of the Armed Forces were prosecuted for their sexuality under service law, which dictated the conduct of service personnel. In some instances, people were convicted of offences such as ‘solicitation by men’, which might have been used to criminalise gay men for behaviour that would have been considered no more than “chatting up” if it had occurred between a man and a woman.

Minister for safeguarding, Sarah Dines, commented: “The appalling criminalisation of homosexuality is a shameful and yet not so distant part of our history. Although they can never be undone, the disregards and pardons Scheme has gone some way to right the wrongs of the past. I am proud that from today the scheme has been significantly widened to include more repealed offences. I invite all of those who were convicted or cautioned for same-sex sexual activity under an abolished offence to come forward and apply.”

Since 2012, men have been able to apply to have their convictions or cautions for consensual sex with other men disregarded. Last year, further changes were announced to broaden the range of civilian and service offences under the scheme, as well as to allow women to apply. Offences included are those in which the other party was 16 or over and the activity is not a crime today.

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The expansion of the government’s disregards and pardons Scheme saw computer pioneer Alan Turing among the first to be pardoned. Craig Jones, executive chair of Fighting With Pride, and chief executive Caroline Paige said in a joint statement: “This extension to the disregards and pardons scheme and its inclusion of female veterans is welcome and another small step in the right direction. We will continue to work very closely with the Ministry of Defence and other government departments to ensure the vulnerable veterans in this cohort get all the support available to them.”

Rob Cookson, deputy chief executive of the LGBT Foundation, added: “People should never be criminalised simply for who they are and who they love. The criminalisation of gay men made a huge, terrible impact on many people in our community. It is only right that the disregards and pardons scheme has been widened.”

Those wishing to apply can do so by completing a form on the website.

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Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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