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UK to pardon thousands of gay men convicted under now-abolished sexual offences law

The new law has been dubbed as the 'Alan Turing Law' after Britain's famous Enigma code-breaker who was granted a posthumous royal pardon in 2013, 61 years after he was charged over homosexual activity. Photograph: (AFP)

PTI London, United Kingdom Oct 20, 2016, 12.02 PM (IST)

Gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences law are to receive posthumous pardons, the United Kingdom government said today.

 

UK justice minister Sam Gyimah said it was “hugely important” to pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences because they would be innocent of any crime today.

 

It follows the pardoning of Britain’s World War II Enigma code-breaker, Alan Turing, over a conviction in 1952 for gross indecency with a 19-year-old man.

 

He was later chemically castrated and died in 1954 after poisoning himself with cyanide.

 

Under the amendment, dubbed the ‘Alan Turing Law’, the deceased who were convicted of sexual acts that are no longer deemed criminal will receive an automatic pardon.

 

Anyone living who has been convicted of the now abolished offences can currently apply through the Home Office to have their names cleared.

 

But now, if the Home Office agrees that the offence is no longer an offence under current law, they will automatically be pardoned.

 

The Sexual Offences Law was abolished in England and Wales in 1967. 

 

The law was not changed in Scotland until 1980 and in Northern Ireland until 1982.

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May has given her full backing to the proposal by the Liberal Democrat party and it will become law tomorrow after the House of Lords officially approves an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill.

 

Rachel Barnes, the great niece of Turing, hailed the decision as "absolutely tremendous".

 

"This is a momentous day for all those who have been convicted under the historic laws and for their families. The gross indecency law ruined peoples' lives," news agency PTI quoted Barnes as saying.

 

"As Alan Turing received a pardon, it is absolutely right that those who were similarly convicted should receive a pardon as well. It is great news for all those who have worked so hard for years to bring about this new legislation," she added.

(WION with PTI inputs)

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