Scotland Pardons Men convicted of Gay Sex Offences

Scotland has decided to pardon men convicted of engaging in consensual gay sex, those men previously convicted can now apply to have their convictions removed from the central criminal records.  There was strong cross-party support for the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill which was introduced in November 2017.  Nicola Sturgeon offered an "unequivocal apology" to men who had been "convicted as criminals, simply for loving another adult".  Whilst the vast majority of those in the Scottish parliament’s debate were supportive there were some dissenting voices. Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie criticising the "cowardice" of SNP MSP John Mason for "quietly assenting" to the legislation when he held views that opposed the new law.  Mr. Mason responded enigmatically that "people of many traditional faiths" had a "genuinely held belief" that gay sex was wrong.  He stopped short of saying that he was one such person.

The Scottish government believe that 25 men are likely to apply for their convictions to be removed despite the fact that thousands of men were convicted in past decades and hundreds of them are alive today.

Before homosexual activity was decriminalised men could be prosecuted for indulging in consensual sexual activity in private, kissing another man in a public place or even just chatting up a man which was regarded as importuning.   The conviction rate was lower in Scotland than in other parts of the United Kingdom as Scottish law requires the corroboration of evidence by independent witnesses which meant that the “offences” committed within the home were harder to prosecute due to lack of such witness testimony.  At the time a number of other offences were used against gay men for activities in public such as loitering, and shameless indecency; the penalties were small fines but the intention was to get gay men into court.  Once convicted it was likely that the conviction would have to be disclosed every time the “guilty” party had a job interview or sought promotion.  Families of men convicted found themselves being shunned.   Many men avoided disclosing their sexuality for fear of falling foul of the smaller criminal charges.  If convicted, gay men frequently found themselves discriminated against in the workplace and in often a landlord would give notice to a man once his conviction was revealed.

Scotland is deemed to be one of the most gay-friendly countries but this piece of legislation has been slow in coming.  A person wishing to have their criminal conviction expunged from the record will have to apply for a disregard, the pardon is automatic but will not remove the conviction from the record, the application must be supported by evidence of identity and as much detail regarding the charges brought against them.  The circumstances and evidence will then be reviewed and if applicable, a disregard notice will be issued and the criminal conviction will no longer be visible on record.  

Should you want advice as to how to have a conviction removed from your record please email contact@gaylawyers.co.uk  or telephone 020 7043 5928