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Turing Law Pardons for Gay and Bisexual Men

We are delighted by the news that deceased gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences in England and Wales will receive posthumous pardons.

The amendment to the law has been dubbed Turing Law in a reference to Alan Turing, who was pardoned in 2013 following a gross indecency conviction.

Around 65,000 men were convicted under the old laws, 15,000 of whom are still alive.

The Sexual Offences Act decriminalised private homosexual acts between men aged over 21 in England and Wales, in 1967.  Changes to the law did not come to Scotland until 1980 and Northern Ireland until 1982.

Turing Law will apply only in England and Wales.

Alan Turing, a heroic World War Two code-breaker, was convicted of gross indecency with a 19-year-old man in 1952.  He was chemically castrated and committed suicide by cyanide poisoning in 1954.

While many are celebrating this news, others do not feel that a pardon is appropriate.

George Montague, convicted in 1974 of gross indecency with a man, said:

“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.”

Men who are still living and have been convicted in relation to consensual same-sex relationships will also be eligible for the pardon, described by Lord Sharkey who proposed the amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill as “momentous”.

People are only eligible for this if the other person involved in the activity was consenting and aged 16 or over at the time, and if the activity would not now constitute an offence, such as sexual activity in a public lavatory.

A blanket pardon, proposed by John Nicolson MP, is being debated today but is unlikely to be supported due to concerns that it would lead to some individuals being cleared of acts that are still crimes, such as sex with a minor or non-consensual sexual activity.

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