Officials within the Department of Justice are set to conduct a public consultation surrounding the overturning of historical criminal convictions for homosexuality.
The move comes after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee received final plans from an expert working group that examined how the State could overturn these charges that occurred under laws that have since been repealed. The documents were sent to the department within the last fortnight, with group member and Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) co-founder Kieran Rose saying that substantial work had been put into the proposal.
He added that while gay, bisexual and other men who were affected by the old legislation may not all be compensated financially, there is a redress scheme that “covers the possibility of an apology from the State and possibly An Garda Síochána and the Court Service”. Those who wish to receive payment will have to prove that they lost their jobs as a result of being prosecuted for homosexual acts.
According to research conducted by the working group, there were 1,690 prosecutions and 941 convictions relating to homosexuality from 1953 to 1993 when the law was repealed.
“A lot of the men who were prosecuted, the last thing they wanted to do was stay in Ireland so many emigrated,” Rose explained. “There will have to be a very good publicity campaign to find the men who were convicted, or their surviving family or loved ones. There will also have to be emotional support offered. People can be retraumatised by revisiting these matters.”
The working group, consisting of representatives from the Department of Justice, An Garda Síochána, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the Office of the Attorney General and three LGBTQ+ people, previously advised setting up a disregard scheme that would consider individuals’ applications on a case-by-case basis. This would allow affected parties or someone acting on behalf of a deceased person to submit a request for their conviction to be overturned.
The group also considered if a letter of apology from the Minister for Justice should be sent to successful applicants, or if an official pardon could be granted.
The public consultation process begins ahead of changes being made to legislation that would disregard these “crimes”, and groups and individuals will be able to make submissions about how the legal proceedings should occur.
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