Government reject posthumous pardons for homosexuality convictions

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The government has rejected a cross party call to allow those convicted for homosexual acts to be given Alan Turing style posthumous pardons.

Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon last year following years of campaigning.

This overturned his 1952 conviction for homosexuality for which he was punished by being chemically castrated.

Legislation passed in 2012 gave 16,000 men who were till alive but had convicted for homosexual acts under the same laws as Mr Turing the right to apply to have their convictions disregarded.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey tabled an amendment that would allow the estimated 59,000 men convicted under the now defunct Labouchere Amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Act188, which effectively outlawed homosexuality until the 1960s, to have their convictions posthumously disregarded.

During committee stage debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill on 21 July 2014, Lord Sharkey said he wanted equality of treatment for all those convicted of homosexual acts, whether alive or dead.

"This would go some way towards making amends for the many thousands of men cruelly and unjustly persecuted simple for being gay."

He said it would help right an "historical injustice" and bring closure to "an extremely unhappy period in our criminal law."

The amendment found support from the Labour front bench and the first openly gay Tory peerLord Black of Brentwood who said it was a "sensible, proportionate and long overdue" change.

To make a distinction between the living and the dead in such circumstances seemed "wholly irrational", he told peers.

But justice minister Lord Faulks said that while the government have considerable sympathy with the principle behind the move it could not agree to it.

The 2012 change was designed to "help living individuals get on with their lives free of the stigma of the disregarded offence" he said.

The Government was concerned that there would not be such a "practical benefit" to a posthumous change.

He said such an amendment would introduce a "disproportionate burden" on public resources at a time of limited resources, which could not be justified.

However the conservative peer did offer to meet peers concerned about the issue to discuss it with them but warned he could not raise expectations further.

Lord Sharkey branded the minister's response "legalistic and mean-spirited" and threatened to bring the issue back as the bill passed through parliament.

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