The government has expanded a scheme for pardoning people convicted of past homosexuality offences to include women.
In 2012, the government launched the Disregards and Pardons Scheme in England and Wales under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The scheme was a government plan that helps men wipe same-sex activity convictions off their records. Formally, only men were allowed to apply, as former laws partially decriminalised homosexuality between men in 1967. Same-sex activity between women was not specifically outlawed in these laws, but there were instances in which they were equally punished.
The scheme was expanded after the addition of the “Turing Law”, an amendment to the 2012 legislation. Alan Turing, who famously deciphered German codes during World War II, was pardoned for “gross indecency” in 2013. The amendment gave Turing and other deceased individuals an automatic pardon for convictions of sexual acts that are no longer deemed criminal.
The Home Office data shows that only 208 people who have applied for the removal of their convictions have found success. However, more than 400 applications have been rejected due to their convictions not meeting the qualifications listed by the scheme. To meet the conditions, the offence must “have been consensual, with a person of 16 or over, and any activity now would not be an offence [of] sexual activity in a public lavatory.”
The scheme has now been expanded to also allow women with such previous convictions to apply. Those who are successful will have their convictions removed from their records, removing the requirement to disclose them in court proceedings or when seeking employment.
Chief executive of the charity Unlock, Jo Easton, stated that while this was “an important step… people should not have to apply to have their record wiped of things that are quite rightly no longer offences.”
Justice Minister Sam Gyimah states it is “hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today.”
Safeguarding Minister Sarah Dines anticipates it will help “right the wrongs of the past”.
Those who may be eligible can apply online.