A private members Bill which would have pardoned up to 15,000 living gay men who have a criminal record due to the defunct Sexual Offences Act was recently talked out of Parliament by Tory Minister Sam Gyimah. By speaking for 25 minutes he ensured the Bill ran out of time and was not voted on.
He argued the government had already agreed to let gay men apply for their convictions to be disregarded and had introduced a posthumous “pardoning process.” Gyimah argued the Bill would have allowed pardoning for actions that remain crimes, e.g. would pardon those who had sex with someone under the current age of consent of 16.
But thousands of men still find their previous convictions scrutinised when applying for work and volunteer roles that involve children. This Bill would have stopped that and the discrimination and shaming of thousands of gay men.
But there is a problem with pardoning, as activist George Montague, who is campaigning for an appology, has 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. [There] never should have been an offence of gross indecency.
“It didn’t apply to heterosexuals. Heterosexuals could do what they liked, in the doorways, in passageways, the back of their car. “It only applied to gay men. That’s not right, surely?”