The Northern Ireland Executive has backed legislation that will offer pardons for men previously convicted of now abolished same-sex offences.
The Stormont Assembly is now set to pass a consent motion that will mirror measures being introduced in England and Wales.
Justice Minister Claire Sugden has secured approval of fellow Executive ministers in the DUP/Sinn Fein-led administration to extend to Northern Ireland the provision for pardons in the Government’s Policing and Crime Bill.
Under the legislation, posthumous pardons will be granted to all those convicted of relevant offences who have since died. Those still alive can make individual applications for similar pardons.
“Pardon arrangements should be brought to Northern Ireland as soon as possible to ensure that there is equal treatment for gay and bisexual men here as for their counterparts in England and Wales,” said Ms Sugden.
“This is an opportunity for the criminal justice system to try and right the wrongs of the past and one which will allow for much earlier resolve than that presented by way of an Assembly Bill.”
The provisions will allow for pardons in respect of convictions for abolished homosexual offences involving consensual activity with persons over the age of consent.
Northern Ireland-based LGBT organisation the Rainbow Project welcomed the pardons.
Project director John O’Doherty said: “This is the first time that the Northern Ireland Assembly has made positive moves in respect of LGB&T legislation and we are hopeful that with cross-party support the pardons will be applicable to convictions made against gay men living in Northern Ireland.
“It was only in 1982 that the criminalisation of gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights, and we are pleased to see these homophobic and discriminatory convictions quashed, especially as they ruined the lives of so many men in Northern Ireland at the time.”