Thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted under Britain’s now-defunct sexual offense laws will be posthumously pardoned.
The Ministry of Justice announced the proposed amendment Thursday that would posthumously pardon thousands convicted under those outdated laws. The so-called “Turing’s Law” would also allow those who are living to apply to have their names removed from criminal records.
Lord John Sharkey, the man behind the amendment, called the development “momentous” and said that of the 65,000 men convicted under the laws, 15,000 are still alive, BBC reported.
The UK justice minister also hailed the proposal.
“It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today,” Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said in a statement.
The pardon plan has been named after the British mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing, who played a crucial role in cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code, greatly helping the Allies reduce casualties and accelerate the end of the war.
In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts and convicted of gross indecency. He underwent chemical castration to avoid prison and committed suicide in 1954 at the age of 41.
Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a royal pardon in 2013, and his story was dramatized in the 2014 film “The Imitation Game.”[Watch Video]
The 2015 film “The Imitation Game” tells the story of British mathematician Alan Turing, whose early computer helped the allies win World War II. But the movie also brings attention to the anti-sodomy laws that drove Turing to suicide. Jeffrey Brown speaks with Peter Tatchell of the Peter Tatchell Foundation about getting justice for others convicted under the same laws.
Homosexual acts were not decriminalized in England and Wales until 1967. The laws were changed in Scotland in 1980 and in Northern Ireland two years later.
Other members of Parliament are backing a more expansive measure that would not require people to apply for the pardon. The UK justice minister said he is not supporting that idea.
“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,” Gyimah said in a statement.
The Ministry of Justice noted that people convicted of sexual acts that were non-consensual or with an underage person would not be pardoned.
But some who could be pardoned under the amendment reject the offer.
George Montague, convicted of gross indecency with another man in 1974, told BBC Newsnight that he wants an apology, not a pardon.
“To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything. I was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.
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