Posthumous pardons for gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences are a step in the right direction, the Law Society has said, but may not be enough for many families.
Chief executive Catherine Dixon said Chancery Lane is pleased the government has ‘gone some way to righting the wrong meted out’ to thousands of men.
Those convicted for consensual same-sex relationships before changes in the law will be formally pardoned under Ministry of Justice plans to amend the Policing and Crime Bill, announced yesterday.
Anyone living who has been convicted of now-abolished offences can already apply through the Home Office to have their names cleared through its ‘disregard’ process, which removes any mention of an offence from criminal record checks.
The ministry announced it will introduce a statutory pardon for those alive in cases where offences have been successfully deleted through the Home Office process.
Although the ministry’s news is a ‘significant step’ for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, Dixon said those whose lives were ruined by laws ‘that enshrined prejudice and not justice’ should never be forgotten.
Kevin Poulter (pictured), a member of the Society’s LGBT committee, said the pardon would provide some comfort to families, but for many ‘it will just not be enough’.
He added: ‘No formal apology has been made for the abhorrent, distressing and often demeaning treatment of those convicted which they have carried with them for decades.
‘Rather than being freed by an automatic pardon, the disregard process will force them to face again the cruelty they suffered and this cannot be right.
‘This is a reminder for those of us who enjoy the freedom and equality that we do in the UK to pause and reflect on the difficult path that has been walked for us and that many still continue to walk around the world.’
The government has previously committed to build on the case of Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing, who committed suicide following his conviction for gross indecency. He was posthumously pardoned in 2013.
However, the ministry said it will not support a separate private members’ bill proposing a blanket pardon for the living without the need to go through the disregard process.
Justice minister Sam Gyimah said: ’A blanket pardon, without the detailed investigations carried out by the Home Office under the disregard process, could see people guilty of an offence which is still a crime today claiming to be pardoned.
’This would cause an extraordinary and unnecessary amount of distress to victims and for this reason the government cannot support the private members’ bill. Our way forward will be both faster and fairer.’