Pardon act for historical same-sex offences comes into effect

A Scottish Parliament act pardoning convictions under historical anti-gay laws came into effect in Scotland on 15 October.

The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards)(Scotland) Act 2018 issues pardons to those who were convicted under now-repealed laws discriminating against men engaging in same-sex sexual activity and allows them to apply to have their convictions wiped from official records.

In a statement, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “There is no place for homophobia, ignorance, and hatred in modern Scotland.

“This landmark legislation provides an automatic pardon to men convicted of same-sex sexual activity, which is now entirely legal.

“We have been working closely with Police Scotland and other partners to ensure the ‘disregard’ scheme is clear and effective and has appropriate safeguards in place.

“This legislation makes good on the commitments made by the First Minister, who gave an unqualified apology for the now outdated and discriminatory laws, and for the harm they caused to many.”

All sexual activity between men was illegal in Scotland until 1981, when a law came into effect stating that a consensual same-sex act was not an offence, provided that the men involved were at least 21.

It was not until 2001 that the age of consent was made equal to that for sexual activity between males and females.

Same-sex couples gained the right to civil partnerships in 2005 and the right to marry in 2014.

Speaking to The Student, a spokesperson for the university’s LGBTQ+ society, PrideSoc, said:

“It’s deeply tragic to know that there were so many queer people affected by these unjust laws and that it has taken several decades for the government to begin to right its wrongs.

“However, this does give us hope that the Scottish government will continue on in this positive trend, particularly for trans, non-binary, and intersex people today who are struggling with difficulty to navigate legislation.

“This pardon will hopefully also serve as a reminder of how recently anti-LGBTQ views were enshrined in law, challenging the view that such oppression belongs to the distant past.”

The original bill was introduced in November 2017 by Michael Matheson MSP of the Scottish National Party, predecessor to the current Justice Secretary.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood then that she apologised “categorically and wholeheartedly for the hurt and harm” caused by the discriminatory laws.

The law was passed unanimously in June 2018. Similar legislation, informally known as the Alan Turing law, came into effect in England and Wales in January 2017. George Montague, 96, a campaigner and author of The Oldest Gay in the Village was convicted in 1974 criticised this type of legislation. Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight, he said: “To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything. “If I get an apology, I will not need a pardon.”


Image: Sharon McCutcheon via Pexels

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The Student Newspaper 2016