London (CNN) – Thousands of gay and bisexual men who were convicted of now-abolished sexual offenses in Britain have been posthumously pardoned under a new policing law, the Justice Ministry announced.
The “Turing law” received royal assent on Tuesday, the last stage in a bill becoming law in the United Kingdom. It gives an automatic pardon to men who died before the law came into force, and makes it possible for living convicted gay men to seek pardons for offenses no longer on the statute book.
The law was named after World War II codebreaker and mathematician Alan Turing — subject of the 2014 film “The Imitation Game” — who killed himself in 1954 after he was subjected to chemical castration as punishment for homosexual activity.
In 2013, nearly 60 years later, he received a posthumous royal pardon from Queen Elizabeth II.
“This is a truly momentous day. We can never undo the hurt caused, but we have apologized and taken action to right these wrongs,” Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said. “I am immensely proud that ‘Turing’s Law’ has become a reality under this government.”
Anyone previously convicted of the abolished laws can apply through the UK’s Home Office to have their names cleared and wiped from criminal record checks.
Sex between men over the age of 21 was decriminalized in England and Wales in 1967. However the law was not changed in Scotland until 1980 or in Northern Ireland until 1982.
Seeking a government apology
Some men affected by the law told CNN they would not seek or accept a pardon as it would be an admission of guilt.
Brighton resident George Montague, who was convicted in 1974 for gross indecency with a man, told CNN in October last year that he wanted an apology for the way he and many others were treated.
“In my view if you’re born only able to love and be in love with another a man — which means you’re gay — then it can’t be a crime. How can that be a crime? It’s not fair,” Montague said.
In recent years gay people around the world have fought to be pardoned for same-sex crimes that have long since been abolished.
Last year, Germany announced plans to compensate thousands of men who were convicted under an old law for their sexual preferences, Deutsche Welle reported.
And in New Zealand, lawmakers introduced a petition in July seeking a formal apology and a pardon for those convicted of same-sex acts under laws abolished 30 years ago.
by Angela Dewan, CNN
Source – CNN