Britain pardons thousands of gay men for convictions under abolished laws

by Astrid Zweynert | azweynert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 31 January 2017 17:28 GMT

A gay couple hold each other as they are interviewed by the media after marrying in the first same-sex wedding at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, southern England March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

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Under the "Turing law", 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

By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON, Jan 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain pardoned on Tuesday thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of crimes under sexual offence laws which have now been abolished, following on from the 2013 exoneration of World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing.

Homosexual acts were not decriminalised 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 apologised 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who had been pushing the government to issue pardons, said last year some 65,000 men had been convicted under the now-repealed laws, of which 15,000 were still alive .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 on Tuesday after being signed off by Queen Elizabeth.

"Another important milestone of equality has been secured in law," said gay rights charity Stonewall.

"The more equality is enshrined into our law books, the stronger our equality becomes, and the stronger we as a community become," it said. (Reporting by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert , Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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