Bill to wipe historical homosexual convictions introduced

Signalled earlier in the year by the Government, Justice Minister Amy Adams has introduced a Bill to Parliament that “will allow men convicted of specific homosexual offences decriminalised by the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 to apply to have the convictions wiped from their criminal record”.

This was initiated by a petition presented to MPS last year – so sensible petitions can be effective.

The Criminal Records (of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill was introduced to Parliament today.

“The tremendous hurt and stigma suffered by those who were affected can never be fully undone, but I hope that this Bill will go some way toward addressing that,” says Ms Adams.

“This Bill introduces the first ever expungement scheme in New Zealand.

“Allowing historical convictions for homosexual offences to remain on a person’s criminal record perpetuates the stigma which such convictions carry. A person can be further disadvantaged if they are required to disclose their conviction or it appears on a criminal history check.”

Ms Adams says the scheme will be open to applications from men with convictions for specific offences relating to sexual conduct between consenting men 16 years and over, or by a family member on their behalf if the person is deceased. The application process will be free for applicants.

“The scheme requires case-by-case assessments of the relevant facts to determine whether the conduct a person was charged with is still unlawful today. The decision will be made by the Secretary for Justice, without the need for a court hearing or for applicants to appear in person,” says Ms Adams.

“If a person’s conviction is expunged, the conviction will not appear on a criminal history check for any purpose and they will be entitled to declare they had no such conviction when required to under New Zealand law.”

Copy of the Bill:  www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_74442/criminal-records-expungement-of-convictions-for-historical

It’s taken a long time but it’s good to see this being dealt with. It was abhorrent law in the not very distant past and the least that can be done now is to wipe any convictions.

Some history:

Male homosexual sex became illegal in New Zealand when the country became part of the British Empire in 1840 and adopted English law making male homosexual acts punishable by death.

The Offences Against The Person Act of 1867 changed the penalty of buggery from execution to life imprisonment. In 1893 the law was broadened so that sexual activity between men constituted “sexual assault” even if it was consensual. Penalties included life imprisonment, hard labour and flogging.

Sex between women has never been legally prohibited in New Zealand.

In 1961 the penalties for male homosexual activity were reduced, reflecting changing attitudes towards homosexuality.

In 1968 a petition signed by 75 prominent citizens and calling for legislative change was presented to (and rejected by) parliament.

The Act was introduced by Labour MP Fran Wilde in 1985. Originally, the bill had two parts – one decriminalised male homosexuality, while the other provided anti-discrimination law protections for lesbians and gay men.

The first part passed narrowly (49 Ayes to 44 Noes) on 9 July 1986, after an attempt by opponents to invoke closure and end debate was defeated by one vote the previous week; the bill might have failed if a vote was taken then as several supporters were kept away from Wellington by bad weather. Three National MPs voted for the bill, and other National MPs (including Doug Graham) would have supported the bill if it had been in danger of defeat.

The second part failed, but was incorporated into a supplementary order paper added to the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_Law_Reform_Act_1986

This is one example of a number of awful laws and prejudices of the not very distance past that have changed significantly in a more tolerant and sensible society.

As a civil society we’re not perfect yet, but this is another good step forward.

Stuff from last year: Homosexual Law Reform 30 years on – what was life like for the gay community pre-1986?

Big increase in sexual assault convictions

Radio NZ reports:

Latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show sexual assault convictions have jumped by 27% since 2007, while convictions overall dropped by 7% in that time.

Last year, 2,223 people were convicted of charges relating to sexual offending last year, up 1,748 in 2007.

It’s not known what the reason for this increase is – it could be a combination of more successful prosecution levels, an increase in reporting of offences, and an increase in the number of offences.

The report also said that it’s thought that only 10% of sexual assualts are reported.

There are a lot of victims involved and in the more severe cases this can seriously affect their lives and the lives of people associated with them.

While some of those convicted are simply cretins some will also have been pinged by little more than moment of madness, or thinking that what they were doing was fair game (if they could get away with it) – but regardless, the convictions can also have a major impact on the offenders and often their families.