From June 28, men in Northern Ireland convicted for abolished gay sex offences can seek pardons and have their records cleared. The law, dubbed ‘Turing Law’ in honour of codebreaker Alan Turing, was passed by the Assembly in 2016 but only comes into force today.
For those Northern Irish men affected, this means that because those historic convictions are now no longer seen as offences, they will be disregarded and no criminal record will exist. Application can be made to the Ministry of Justice for those living, while posthumous pardons will automatically be given to those who have passed away.
Commenting on the pardons, John O’Doherty, director of the LGBT+ support group The Rainbow Project, said “While the UK government will never be able to take back what it has done to gay and bi men, it can work to ensure the wrongs of the past will never be repeated.”
England and Wales gave similar pardons in 2017 while the government in the Republic of Ireland has apologised to gay and bisexual men affected but as yet has not expunged criminal convictions.
In a reception in Dublin Castle on June 24 to mark the 25th Anniversary of Decriminalisation, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar apologised but followed by promising; “An apology is just an apology, we want to go further and expunge those convictions as well.” Finalised proposals are being worked on by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and will be brought to cabinet by the end of the year.
It has been a momentous time recently for the queer community of Northern Ireland. Newtownabbey Councillor John Blair becoming the first openly gay MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) and Arlene Foster is attending an LGBT+ event organised by Pink News in Stormont tonight – the first time an acting leader of the DUP has done so.
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