Any conviction that was imposed on someone purely due to consensual homosexual activity under now-abolished laws will be included in a scheme aimed at “righting the wrongs of the past”, the home secretary is set to announce.
Priti Patel said more people would have convictions for same-sex sexual activity wiped from their records, 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just nine former offences are included on a specified list which the Home Office said “largely focused on the repealed offences of buggery and gross indecency between men”.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 and not be required 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But an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will broaden the criteria to include any repealed or abolished civilian or military offence that was imposed on someone purely for, or due to, consensual same-sex sexual activity.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.
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.”
And she thanked peers Lord Cashman and Lord Lexden for raising the issue.
Tory peer Lord Lexden said earlier this year it was “an affront to gay people” that the scheme had not been extended.
And non-affiliated peer Lord Cashman said in November “the disregard and pardon schemes in England and Wales are significantly flawed because they encompass only a small fraction of the laws that, over the decades and centuries, have immiserated the lives of gay and bisexual people”.
At the time, he highlighted how “the offence of solicitation by men, which was used to entrap gay and bisexual men, sometimes for doing nothing more than chatting up another adult man” would not have been included in the original scheme.
In a statement Lord Lexden, Lord Cashman, and Professor Paul Johnson – a sociologist from the University of York who also worked on the campaign – welcomed the news.
They said: “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.
“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 have been pressing the government since 2016 to widen the disregard and pardon schemes through which individuals’ reputations can be fully restored. The government has now pledged to bring forward amendments to legislation which is currently before the Lords. It has done this in close consultation with us. In a matter of weeks, legislation will be in place to enable thousands of gay people to whom grave harm was done to wipe their records clean.
“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 in order for a disregard and pardon to be granted, including that anyone else involved must have been aged 16 or over and the sexual activity must not constitute an offence today.