9 Feb 2017

Govt moves to wipe historical homosexual convictions

2:40 pm on 9 February 2017

Historical homosexual convictions will be eligible to be wiped, under a new scheme announced by the government today.

A march in support of homosexual law reform in Wellington on 24 May 1985.

Demonstrators marching in support of New Zealand's homosexual law reform in the mid-1980s. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library / http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22878952

The Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 decriminalised consensual sex between men aged 16 and over, but convictions for those offences remained on record and can appear in criminal history checks.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said she "acknowledged the pain" that those New Zealanders had lived with, and hoped the new scheme would go some way toward addressing it.

"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."

About 1000 people may be eligable to apply for the clearing of their record. Family members will also be able to apply on behalf of men who died with a convcition against their name.

The government said there will be no compensation.

Last year, the government ruled out a mass pardon for men convicted of homosexuality before 1986, but said it would consider overturning individual cases.

02082016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Amy Adams held a press conference in relation to David Bain's compensation.

Justice Minister Amy Adams Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The planned scheme would allow New Zealanders with convictions for specific offences relating to consensual sexual activity between men 16 years and over to apply to the Secretary of Justice to have the conviction expunged.

If the application was approved, the conviction would not appear in any criminal history checks.

The application process will be free for applicants.

"As there may be instances where the offending involved conduct that is still unlawful today, we can't apply a broad brush approach to wiping convictions. The scheme will involve a case-by-case approach," Ms Adams said.

The government will introduce legislation to implement the scheme in the coming months, she said. It was expected to come into force in 2018.

A similar scheme was now used in Australia, and Britain last week pardoned some 49,000 gay and bisexual men who had been found guilty of decades-old sexual offences.

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