In a news release published earlier last week, the British Home Office announced that any individual who has been convicted of consensual same-sex sexual activity under abolished laws in England and Wales will soon be able to have those records wiped.
“It is only right that where offenses have been abolished, convictions for consensual activity between same-sex partners should be disregarded too,” declared British Home Secretary Priti Patel in a statement.
“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,” Patel added.
People convicted under a narrower set of repealed offenses (such as sodomy and gross indecency between men) have been able to apply to be pardoned and for their convictions to be disregarded since 2012.
Now, the government wishes to broaden eligibility to include anyone convicted or cautioned for any abolished civil or military offense related to consensual same-sex sexual activity in England and Wales. The plan will even extend to anyone who has died before the amendment is implemented, or up to a year afterward. Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own pardon schemes in place.
The decision to broaden eligibility comes after a year-long campaign led by House of Lords members Michael Cashman and Alistair Lexden, along with University of Leeds sociologist Paul Johnson.
“We are delighted that our long campaign will, at last, bring many gay people, both living and deceased, the restitution they deserve,” said the trio in a statement.
Sasha Misra, associate director of communications and campaigns for British LGBTQ rights organization Stonewall, welcomed the government’s decision. “While grave harm this has already caused cannot be undone, the Home Secretary’s decisive action is a huge step towards righting the wrongs and the past, and will ensure thousands of people will be able to move forward with their lives with a clean slate,” she stated.
The reformed legislation is expected to be in place within the coming weeks.