One-hundred-sixty-five men in England and Wales have had their historical conviction disregarded for a homosexual act that is no longer considered a crime.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967 in England and Wales. However, a conviction is still listed in court records and appears on a person’s criminal record.
The Protection of Freedoms Act (PFA) enacted in 2012 by the United Kingdom’s Parliament included a provision that allows a man convicted of a homosexual act that is no longer considered a crime to apply to the UK’s Home Office for their conviction to be “disregarded.”
The legislation primarily relates to two crimes involving actual sexual activity: buggery (anal sex) and gross indecency (oral sex, etc.). Minor activities such as holding hands with another male in public or going to a homosexual bar are not eligible to be disregarded.
The law applies to men convicted in England, Wales, and the British military. Most of the affected men were convicted under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, and corresponding offences under earlier legislation, and equivalent military offences.
To be eligible the homosexual activity underlying the conviction must have been consensual and with a person of 16 or over, and must not be a criminal offense under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. One of the crimes that doesn’t qualify under the PFA is sexual activity in a public lavatory, which remains a criminal offense regardless of the participant’s sex.
After a conviction is disregarded by the Home Office it is treated in official records as if it did not occur: it no longer appears on a person’s criminal record; and, it is not admissible in court proceedings.
The Home Office’s website has a webpage titled: “Statistics on disregards and pardons for historical gay sexual convictions.” The webpage was last updated January 2, 2018. The website lists that from October 1, 2012 to January 1, 2018, 165 men have had their conviction disregarded. The website lists the following statistics for “In scope applications”:
- 16 = Buggery
- 145 = Gross Indecency
- 4 = Equivalent military offences
- 165 = Total
- 81 = Sexual activity in a public lavatory
- 8 = Non-consensual sex
- 7 = Other party under 16-years-old
- 96 = Total
The website lists that 268 applications were rejected for reasons such as they involved inapplicable crimes or convictions that occurred in Scotland or Northern Ireland. It is reported that the Scottish and Northern Ireland administrations intend to introduce their own legislation for the disregard of a historical homosexual conviction.
Less than 2% of the estimated 16,000 men eligible to have a historical homosexual conviction disregarded have filed an application with the Home Office to do so.
Click here to download in PDF format the “Application Form & Guidance Notes for Applicants” to have a historical homosexual conviction in England and Wales disregarded. It costs no money to apply.
A man whose conviction is disregarded can also apply for a royal pardon. However, the Home Office’s website doesn’t state that a single person whose conviction was disregarded has in fact applied for a pardon.
On January 31, 2017 the United Kingdom posthumously pardoned about 49,000 males who were convicted of consensual homosexual activity that is no longer considered criminal.