Thursday, 20 October 2016

Legislation to introduce Statutory pardons for certain sexual offences

The Ministry of Justice has announced a plan to pardon those convicted for consensual same-sex relationships when the conviction was prior to a change in the law - see Ministry of Justice announcement 20th October.  This will be achieved by way of the government introducing an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill.

The route to obtaining a statutory pardon will be somewhat complex since the proposed alteration to the law will operate via the "disregard" scheme introduced by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 Part 5 Chapter 4.  A little explanation is therefore in order.

The "disregard" scheme:

The Protection of Freedoms Act Part 5 Chapter 4 applies where a person was convicted of, or cautioned for, an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 s.12 (Buggery) or section 13 of the same Act (Gross indecency between men) or corresponding earlier offences under section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 or section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.  The person may apply to the Secretary of State for the conviction or caution to become a disregarded conviction or caution.  The Secretary of State may grant the application if certain conditions specified in the 2012 Act apply and these may be seen via the link to the Act provided.

The government's proposal:

The proposed statutory pardon will apply to those still living where the offence has been successfully deleted via the disregard process.

A Private Member's Bill aimed at pardoning, or otherwise setting aside, cautions and convictions for specified sexual offences that have now been abolished will not receive government support which is often necessary for such a Bill to succeed - see the Bill here.  The Ministry of Justice gives the following reason for this:

The Private Member's Bill - "proposes a blanket pardon for the living without the need to go through the disregard process. However this could lead, in some cases, to people claiming to be cleared of offences that are still crimes – including sex with a minor and non-consensual sexual activity.
For example, under the disregard process, the Home Office has rejected several applications where the activity was non-consensual and others where the other party was under 16-years-old. These offences were captured under offences such as ‘gross indecency’ at the time but are still crimes today."

I will return to this topic when full details of the amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill are available.

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