Northern Ireland denies requests from two men to excuse historic gay sex convictions

Two men in Northern Ireland looking to clear their records from violations under now-abolished gay sex laws have had their appeals denied.

two men in sweaters in Northern Ireland hold hands

Two men, who are the only two people in Northern Ireland that have applied to the Department of Justice (DoJ) to have their convictions disregarded, and have been denied the pardon for unknown reasons.

In 2016 the Northern Ireland Assembly adopted the ‘Turing Law’ which allows those convicted of gay sex offences to have their criminal records cleared. Additionally, it enforced that convictions would not need to be disclosed when applying to jobs.  

The law, dubbed ‘Turing Law’ in honour of codebreaker Alan Turing, was passed by the Assembly in 2016 but came into force in 2018. Homosexual acts were decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 1982.

The law requires that pardons must be of previous offences that were consensual, with a person aged 17 or over and must not be a current offence. 

In other parts of the UK, applications have been turned down because the conviction involved having sex in a public place which is still a crime, but details have not been released about why the requests of the two men were denied.

The Rainbow Project, a Northern Ireland-based LGBT+ support group, supported both men in their applications.

“The introduction of pardon measures for historic convictions was an important move in recognising that criminalising consenting gay and bi men was always wrong,” said its spokesman John O’Doherty.

“This criminalisation damaged many people’s lives and left them with a criminal record for doing nothing wrong. While it is disappointing that more people didn’t apply for a pardon, it doesn’t take away from the important message sent by the introduction of pardons.”

But, this issue doesn’t only apply to Northern Ireland and is widespread across the UK. According to the latest government figures, more than half of those in other parts of the UK who applied for a pardon under Turing Law failed to have their convictions disregarded.

Alan Turing, who was one of the most influential code breakers of WWII, recently received an obituary from the New York Times as part of their ‘Overlooked’ obituary series. Turing made massive contributions to modern computing and to the D-day landings, and was convicted of being a homosexual and as a result, chemically castrated. He died without the world knowing of his contributions. 

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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