Reuters-Britain has pardoned thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of crimes under sexual offense laws which have now been abolished, following on from the 2013 exoneration of World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing.
Homosexual acts were not decriminalized in England until 1967 and it was not until 2001 that the age of consent for homosexuals was reduced to 16, making it the same as for heterosexuals.
The so-called “Turing’s Law”, named after the celebrated mathematician who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having sex with a man, clears thousands of men of crimes of which they would be innocent today. Under the new rules, gay and bisexual men convicted of consensual same-sex acts can be pardoned as long as it can be proved that the sexual act was consensual and the partner was over the age of consent.
For those still alive, the offences will be removed from any criminal record checks via a “disregard process”.
“This is a truly momentous day,” Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said in a statement. “We can never undo the hurt caused, but we have apologized and taken action to right these wrongs.”
Turing, who cracked Nazi Germany’s “unbreakable” Enigma code, was stripped of his job and chemically castrated after his 1952 conviction. He killed himself two years later, aged 41.
After years of campaigning by supporters including physicist Stephen Hawking, Turing was granted a rare royal pardon from Queen Elizabeth in 2013. Lord John Sharkey, who had been pushing the government to issue pardons, said last year some 65,000 men had been convicted under the now-repealed laws, of which 15,000 were still alive.
The pardons, promised by the government last October, came into effect recently after being signed off by Queen Elizabeth.