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Sexual Offences Pardons Bill agreed unanimously at stage 1

19 April 2018

The Scottish Government's bill to pardon gay men convicted under former laws for acts that are now legal, was enoorsed unanimously by MSPs at stage 1 yesterday.

The Scottish Parliament endorsed the general principles of the Historic Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill, which also enables men to apply to have convictions for same-sex sexual activity that is now legal removed from central criminal conviction records.

Offences covered by the bill include sexual activity between men, and those which were more general in nature, but which were capable of being used in a manner that discriminated against men who engaged in same-sex sexual activity, like the common law offences of shameless indecency and breach of the peace.

Welcoming the vote, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson commented: “I am pleased that the Scottish Parliament has united behind this bill – which is both symbolic and has a real, practical benefit for those who continue to suffer discrimination as a result of previous convictions.

“I am under no illusions that this bill, or any other legislation, can itself right the massive injustice caused by these discriminatory laws that criminalised the act of loving another adult. Those laws that deterred people from being open about who they are to family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues, and by sending a message that Parliament considered that homosexuality was wrong, encouraged homophobia and hatred.

“However, through the pardon this Bill will send a clear message to those who were affected by them that these laws were unjust. And through the establishment of a disregards scheme, we can ensure that people do not continue to suffer discrimination as a result of such convictions being disclosed to potential employers or when applying to be a volunteer."

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