Govt to quash historic gay sex convictions

Justice Minister Amy Adams has announced today that historic convictions relating to homosexuality will be pardoned.

An estimated 1000 people can apply on a case by case basis to have their records expunged.

Ms Adams says this scheme will allow people with relevant offences to apply to the justice secretary to have the conviction expunged. This is in line with countries like Australia and the UK.

However, only convictions between consenting adult men will be wiped, whereas those who committed acts which are still illegal today are not included.

"Although we can never fully undo the impact on the lives of those affected, this new scheme will provide a pathway for their convictions to be expunged. It means people will be treated as if they had never been convicted, and removes the ongoing stigma and prejudice that can arise from convictions for homosexual offences," Ms Adams said.

"I acknowledge the pain that these New Zealanders have lived with and hope that this will go some way toward addressing that."

If a person's application is approved, government records will be amended so the conviction does not appear in criminal history checks and they will be entitled to declare they have no such conviction.

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Decisions will be made by the secretary of justice, without the need for formal court hearings or for applicants to appear in person.

If a person is deceased, family members will be able to apply on their behalf.

The move follows the 30th anniversary last year of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1986.

Dame Fran Wilde, who introduced the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1985, told Newshub that she is "delighted" and "over the moon" about today's announcement.

"I think this is a great move, good on the Government for doing it, it's something that probably should have been done quite a while back," she says.

"This was decriminalised 30 years ago so there's been a 30 year gap… So many of them would have been deceased by now".

When asked to reflect on how far we have come, Dame Fran said: "I think legally we're pretty good, maybe there's other areas I don't know about, but there's still discrimination, there's no doubt about that.

"It's hugely less than it used to be, but I'm not sure how long it will take, how many generations have to pass for that whole culture to change."

The Homosexual Law Reform Act was signed by then Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves on July 11, 1986, and came into effect on August 8 that year.

It decriminalised sexual relations between men aged 16 and over, and meant men having consensual sex with each other could no longer be prosecuted or jailed. Sex between women wasn't illegal.

In July last year a petition signed by 2112 people was presented to Parliament, calling for convictions for being gay to be expunged and for an official apology.

The New Zealand decision follows a move last year in Britain which pardoned thousands of men convicted of offences that once criminalised homosexuality.

The general pardon was modelled on the 2013 royal pardon granted by the Queen to Alan Turing, the mathematician who broke the German Enigma codes in World War II.

He killed himself in 1954 after his conviction for gross indecency.  

Newshub.

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