The report from the working group established by the Department of Justice to examine the ‘Disregard of (historic) Convictions for Certain Qualifying Offences Related to Consensual Sexual Activity between Men’ has now been finalised.
The “working group has completed its recommendations, it finalised them and will be giving them to Minister McEntee as soon as she returns on the first of June”, Minister of State at the Department, James Browne, said on Sunday, May 21.
The group consists of representatives from the Department of Justice, An Garda Síochána, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the Office of the Attorney General, and three members of the LGBTQ+ community that are experts in the area in question.
The team set about work in 2021, three years after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar issued a formal apology to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) who were criminalised in decades past.
With the formal apology marking the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex activities, the government announced the plan to bring forward proposals for a scheme that would allow for the historic convictions of gbMSM to be quenched on the same day.
At least 941 men were convicted of such offences until the law was repealed by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act in 1993.
The main goals of the working group were to inspect the availability and quality of the records relating to these offences, as well as to determine which offences should be included and which standards would need to be met before an offence can be expunged.
Furthermore, the group examined the need for a scheme that would ensure such actions and looked at the possibility of putting in place a scheme similar to other existing ones that would allow for the consideration of individual cases rather than just categorically expunging all known historic convictions.
LGBTQ+ activists have been pushing the Government to publish a timetable for the actual introduction of legislation that will quench the historic convictions, a process that is supposed to follow the recommendations that have now been finalised.
“Time is running out for those convicted under anti-gay legislation prior to 1993. We call on the Government to publish a timetable for the legislation, with a date in the early autumn to bring the legislation to the Oireachtas, honouring the commitment given in the Programme for Government and repeated by Minister James Brown in the Seanad today,” said Karl Hayden of the LGBT Restorative Justice Campaign.
“It is now five years since the Government, with unanimous votes in both Houses of the Oireachtas, offered an apology to all those convicted under the laws, and acknowledged the harms done to generations of LGBTI+ people and communities. The urgency attached to introduction and passage of the Disregard legislation cannot be underestimated,” he added.
Regarding a precise schedule for the realisation of the given recommendations, Minister Browne said: “It needs to happen right. It needs to be as extensive and as inclusive as possible. Because it is quite a complicated legal situation to try to address. We want to get that right. If it requires legislation, then that will happen as quickly as possible as well.” However, the politician could not give dates as to when it would happen.
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