London

Man fights to clear gay criminal record from 1950s

  • 28 November 2012
  • From the section London
Media captionJohn Crawford still has to declare the old offence whenever applying for voluntary work

A 73-year-old man who has a criminal record for being in a gay relationship in the 1950s has applied to have his conviction struck out.

John Crawford, from Marylebone, central London, only found out he had a criminal record when he applied for voluntary work.

Under a new law people can apply for historic convictions for gay sex to be treated as spent.

Mr Crawford hopes others in the same situation will do the same.

He said: "I looked back over my life and realised that all the work I'd lost over the years was due to this criminal record."

'Arrested instantly'

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 which gained Royal Assent in May, changed the law so historical convictions for decriminalised consensual sex offences will not show up on criminal record checks.

Those affected need to apply to the Home Secretary for a formal disregard of their convictions.

The Home Office said 27 people in England and Wales had applied since 1 October.

Mr Crawford received a year's conditional discharge at Winchester Crown Court in 1959 after he was convicted of a sexual offence.

He said: "It was something that gays had to go through in those days. If you were gay you were in trouble with the police.

"Gay guys don't realise how lucky they are to be able to kiss in the street. In my time in the '50s you'd be arrested instantly."

He added: "I came into this world without a criminal record and I don't want to die with a criminal record."

Mr Crawford, a former butler, discovered he had a record when he applied to help gay prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs Prison in Shepherd's Bush, west London.

He said: "I was horrified. I was so upset I walked out."

He added: "I'm trying to let people know in my situation, in my age group, with a criminal record, that they can do something about it and have it wiped clean."

The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalised sex between two men over 21 in private, with exceptions.

In 2000 the age of consent for sex between two men was amended from 18 to 16, in line with heterosexual sex. It had been reduced from 21 to 18 in 1994.

The Home Office said if a decision was made to disregard a conviction, the Home Secretary would request that data controllers delete all relevant records.

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