UK to wipe women’s historic convictions for homosexuality

Armed forces homosexuality

Women with convictions for some same-sex activity in the United Kingdom can apply for a pardon for the first time, the Home Office has announced.

The Home Office is widening its scheme to wipe historic convictions for homosexual activity more than a decade after the government allowed applications for same-sex activity offences to be disregarded.

It means anyone can apply for a pardon if they have been convicted or cautioned for any same-sex activity offences that have been repealed or abolished.

The scheme widening also applies to armed forces veterans prosecuted for their sexuality under service law.

One example of newly pardonable offences is ‘solicitation by men’, which criminalised behaviour between gay men, but would have been considered ‘chatting up’ one another if between a man and woman.

LGBT Foundation deputy chief executive Rob Cookson said people should “never be criminalised simply for who they are and who they love”.

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Cookson stated that the criminalisation of gay men “made a huge, terrible impact on many people in our community” and the widening the disregards and pardons scheme was “only right”.

Safeguarding minister Sarah Dines said she was proud to see the scheme widened, noting that “the appalling criminalisation of homosexuality is a shameful and yet not so distant part of our history”.

“Although they can never be undone, the disregards and pardons scheme has gone some way to right the wrongs of the past,” she said.

Previously, only men had been able to apply for pardons under a specific list of offences.

In relation to armed forces personnel, veterans’ affairs minister Johnny Mercer said the treatment queer personnel and veterans faced before the turn of the millennium was “wholly unacceptable”, and that he would continue working to ensure every veteran’s service and experience was valued and recognised.

LGBT+ veterans and joint CEOs of charity Fighting With Pride Craig Jones and Caroline Paige hold a wreath made of red poppies
Joint CEOs of Fighting With Pride Craig Jones MBE and Caroline Paige pose with a wreath as they attend the Remembrance Sunday Procession on 14 November 2021. (Getty/Hollie Adams)

In a joint statement, Fighting With Pride’s chief executive Caroline Page and executive chair Craig Jones said the changes were “another small step in the right direction”, particularly in terms of the inclusion of female veterans.

Earlier in June, activists called for the government to publicly release a review into the historic treatment of LGBTQ+ armed forces personnel, as well as for an apology on behalf of the nation from prime minister Rishi Sunak.

At the time, Jones, a former naval officer, told PinkNews that this should include possible economic reparations because the convictions meant personnel did not have pensions or savings, and had not been able to live their lives like other veterans.

“They have been impoverished by the gay ban,” Jones said.