Peers approve ‘Turing’s Law’ gay pardons for NI

Kris Hopkins (NIO), John ODoherty and Gavin Boyd of the Rainbow Project.
Kris Hopkins (NIO), John ODoherty and Gavin Boyd of the Rainbow Project.

The House of Lords has approved legislation to allow Northern Ireland men who were convicted of gay sex offences to clear their names.

An amendment passed on Wednesday means all legislative steps relating to the Province have been completed.

Veteran gay rights campaigner and Belfast UUP councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon expects that people in Northern Ireland will be able to make applications to the Department of Justice under the new legislation early next year, after the larger Policing and Crime Bill is approved by the House of Commons.

“I would know some 20 to 30 people still alive who will be able to benefit from this,” he said. “But there were also people jailed in the 1960s who died criminals and their families will also be able to apply for their loved ones.”

Mr Dudgeon said the Great Britain legislation would not have carried across to Northern Ireland only for the fact that he lobbied Justice Minister Claire Sugden.

“She really was the Justice Minister and took the bull by the horns and won,” he said.

Mr Dudgeon said he also worked with Lord Lexden - a former Queens University history lecturer - in forming the amendment which was passed in the Lords.

Northern Ireland Office Minister Kris Hopkins said he had worked on the matter with the LGBT health group, the Rainbow Project.

“Today’s amendment is an important milestone for tolerance and equality in Northern Ireland and I welcome it unreservedly,” he said.

An applicant may apply for a ‘disregard’ if the other person consented, was aged 17 or over, and if the conduct is no longer a criminal offence.

The legislation, passed by the Assembly recently, will remove any mention of an offence in record checks. There will be a statutory pardon at the same time. The process is named ‘Turing’s law’ after WWII code breaker Alan Turing who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 and killed himself in 1954 and was pardoned in 2013.