Holyrood announces ‘Turing law’ to pardon men convicted of same-sex sexual activity that is no longer criminal.
Men convicted of same-sex sexual activity on the basis of outdated and homophobic laws will receive a full pardon, the Scottish government has announced.
Holyrood’s justice secretary, Michael Matheson, told the chamber on Tuesday afternoon that the parliament would bring forward a Scottish “Turing law” to automatically pardon gay and bisexual men convicted of sexual offences that are no longer criminal.
He added that his officials had also been in discussion with Police Scotland to identify the most effective way of ensuring that past convictions for consensual sex between men no longer appeared on a person’s criminal record.
A similar law intended to apply to England and Wales was scuppered by the Conservative justice minister, Sam Gyimah, on Friday after he spoke so long that it ran out of time.
Gyimah’s behaviour attracted cross-party condemnation after the private member’s bill, put forward by John Nicolson of the SNP, failed to pass to its next stage in the Commons.
Nicolson’s bill would have gone further than an amendment to the policing and crime bill proposed by the government, which only pardons the thousands of men who are already dead, while the living will have to apply to the Home Office to get their convictions overturned.
The law is named after Alan Turing, whose work during the second world war helped break the German Enigma code, who was pardoned posthumously in 2013. Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 and chemically castrated. He died two years later and an inquest found he had killed himself.
Private homosexual acts between men aged over 21 were decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, but the law in Scotland was not changed until 1980.
Addressing the Holyrood chamber on Tuesday, Matheson said: “It is sadly the case that Scotland has only relatively recently modernised our criminal laws so that they no longer discriminate against same-sex sexual activity. It is shocking to consider that consensual sex between men was only decriminalised in Scotland in 1980 and the age of consent for same-sex sexual activity was not equalised for sexual activity between men and women until 2001.
“Such laws clearly have no place in a modern and inclusive Scotland. However, there are people with criminal convictions for same-sex sexual activity that is now lawful and we must right this wrong.”
The Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, who raised the question of pardons with the Scottish government, described it as “a historic moment”.
Dugdale, herself one of three openly gay party leaders in Holyrood, said: “Since devolution we have seen section 2A abolished, civil partnerships legislated for and then same sex marriages introduced.
“It’s easy enough to pat ourselves on the back, but what is just as important as getting things right for the future is accepting we got things wrong in the past. Then crucially righting those wrongs. This public acknowledgment that our laws were wrong is a historic moment for equality, acceptance and respect in our country.”
She added: “For many men, an apology is as important as a formal pardon – because an apology demonstrates that they should never have been branded criminal in the first place. I am therefore also pleased the Scottish government is seriously considering apologies alongside legislative pardons.”
Welcoming the announcement as an “important step”, Nicolson said: “We have made huge progress towards achieving LGBTI equality in recent years, with improvements in laws and attitudes that have seen Scotland now become the best country in Europe for LGBTI legal rights.
“Despite this welcome and hard-won progress we must never forget the appalling way that LGBTI people have been treated in the UK in our recent past.
“The criminalisation of gay and bisexual men, who were cautioned and convicted under homophobic laws that banned sex between consenting adult men is a blemish on our history and it is right that we now address this injustice with a full and automatic pardon, and a system that allows people to have these discriminatory convictions removed from their records.”
Original Post by: theguardian.com