Convictions for historic gay sex offences to be erased

Convictions for historic gay sex offences will be erased as part of the Freedom Bill, the Sunday Telegraph reports:

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, will announce firm proposals for new legislation within days, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

The move will benefit thousands of men who were prosecuted for gay sex with someone over 16 during decades when the practice was against the law.

Currently, they must disclose the information as part of the programme of Criminal Records Bureau checks if they apply to work or volunteer for charities and other organisations.

Getting such a conviction expunged currently requires a lengthy process involving a personal application to a local chief constable.

Lynne Featherstone said earlier this month in the House of Commons,

It is totally unfair and unjust that men who have a conviction for something that has long not been illegal should have to fear that being exposed-and exposed to partners they live with, who may not know.

Such men will never again have to disclose that information. I hope very much that those gay men whom that has inhibited from volunteering will now find that inhibition removed.

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13 Comments

  • Grant Williams 26th Dec '10 - 10:27am

    Coming hard on the heels of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” it looks like good news for the LGBT community. An appropriate legislative framework is, in my opinion, a necessary element in destigmatisation and I heartily commend Lynne for her work on this.

    Slowly but surely we are coming round to understand as a nation that alternative lifestyles are just that. Alternative. Different. Not better or worse.

    We are all human, after all…

  • Scott Walker 26th Dec '10 - 10:56am

    Well done to Lynne. This is exactly the sort of thing that would not be happening were not Liberals in government.

  • @ Grant Williams

    I’m sure you mean well, but being gay isn’t an “alternative lifestyle”. I am gay and I can tell you, it wasn’t a “lifestyle” choice (That kind of thing is dealt with by TV programmes like Relocation, Relocation). It was just something I realised in my teenage years after much soul searching, worry and stress about being “normal” etc. It is something you adapt to. It is a person’s sexual orientation. Calling it a “lifestyle” makes it sound like something you can change or choose.

    Things like the end of DADT are very welcome, because they put and end to institutionalised discrimination. But we are still a long way from a situation where many people accept the fact that we exist and should have the same rights as other people. You only have to look at our continued heavy stereotyping on British TV (Julian Clary or Alan Carr anyone? Yuk!) to see what an uphill struggle it still is.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas!

  • In response to Mr Robert C, can you be more hyper-sensitive and hypocritical? Whilst that may sound like hyperbole, I am able to back up both comments.

    In your criticism of Mr Grant Williams’s remarks, you demonstrate a lack of understanding and a degree of self-absorption. I am homosexual and describing it as a lifestyle choice is offensive. However, describing it as an alternative lifestyle seems a fairly innocuous and accurate description. The two terms are not synonymous as you imply. The former does imply a deliberate decision made to be gay. The latter is simply descriptive without implication.

    Mr Williams made no mention of choice, decision or judgement; therefore it is unreasonable to attack his post. Any derogatory meaning was inferred by you and not implied by Mr Williams.

    Also, in my reading of Mr Williams’s post, he used the term in the plural; ‘lifestyles’. This presumably covers all individuals living a non-conventional life and not just homosexuals. It seems tiresome that any liberal comment made regarding lifestyle, etc, can be hijacked by certain types as being solely concerned with the gay community. Homosexuals aren’t the only alternative lifestyle out there – not everything applies to us.

    Mr Williams’s comments were without malice or mistake and you should apologise for your ill-considered comments.

    On the charge of hypocrisy, I cite this passage:

    ‘You only have to look at our continued heavy stereotyping on British TV (Julian Clary or Alan Carr anyone? Yuk!) to see what an uphill struggle it still is.’

    So, just so I understand, heterosexuals must show complete acceptance and understanding towards the non-heterosexual world, otherwise they’re Neanderthal, bigoted types; yes? However, by virtue of a curious double-standard, you’re able to show contempt and disgust towards two performers for camp style and that’s perfectly acceptable?
    You have no moral authority to complain about any kind of homophobia whilst you make such offensive sexuality-based comments. Whilst you may not like those individuals, you cannot have it both ways. You can’t bemoan the lack of understanding for your sexuality, yet sneer at others for their flamboyant homosexuality. Remember the old maxim: united we stand, divided we fall. If you start attacking your own, then you do more damage to the equality cause than bigots outside the tent.

    You don’t have to like Alan Carr or Julian Clary, but don’t openly sneer because they’re effeminate.

  • I see no reason to change the process. How are we to know that those having the convictions expunged are not sexual predators? How are we to know that they did not have sex with under sixteen? They obviously knew that they were breaking the law, when it was illegal. Whose to say they are not prepared to break the current law? If changes are to be made, maybe instead of just the Chief Constable making the decision, it could be a panel of legal and criminal specialists. At least that would imply that public welfare is also being considered, and not just the individual concerned.

  • Andrew Suffield 26th Dec '10 - 2:00pm

    How are we to know that they did not have sex with under sixteen?

    How are we to know that you didn’t?

    Innocent until proven guilty. Discussion ends here.

  • Lynne Featherstone could usefully specify what the proposal is. An extension to the Rehabiliration of Offenders Act 1974? Or what? I don’t quite see why sexual offences (ex hypothesi NOT involving post-Wolfenden consenting adults in private) should be spent any earlier than other sexual offences.

  • Let’s not forget all those, like Alan Turing, who were driven to commit suicide by disgusting and perverse laws that would be reintroduced onto the statutes if religious fundamentalists had their way.

  • Andrew Suffield 26th Dec '10 - 5:20pm

    Lynne Featherstone could usefully specify what the proposal is.

    She hasn’t specified anything. This is another leak. Lynne will be announcing it “soon” (ie, next week or two). When that happens I expect it will include details like this.

  • In the absence of an LDV “Like” button … hear hear @ Andrew Suffield 26 Dec, 2.00pm

  • Tom Papworth 27th Dec '10 - 2:09am

    I’m slightly unclear as to what is being proposed. Is it simply that the convinctions will no longer have to be declared? Or will the record of the convictions be destroyed?

    I ask because I have concerns about destroying the historic record. It is one thing to protect the victims of the criminalisation of homosexuality from any further suffering or disruption to their lives; it is another to wipe away all evidence that this atrocity took place. I hope that the National Archives, at least, will keep the evidence.

  • I have to say I was quite shocked at this, and no nothing to do with the gay part at all…

    everything to do with the Law part (unjust or not) at the time it was the Law, it should not matter that the law has changed since, at that time it was breaking the Law… and I presume proven guilty, not, guilty until we change the Law

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