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Gay and Bi Men in Northern Ireland Can Receive Pardons

Gay and Bi Men in Northern Ireland Can Receive Pardons
Rainbow Project director John O'Doherty

Those convicted under now-defunct antisodomy laws can apply for pardons and have their criminal records cleared.

Gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland can now seek pardons for convictions under now-abolished antisodomy laws and clear their records.

The law allowing the pardons, nicknamed "Alan Turing's law," was passed in 2016 and came into effect today, the BBC reports. Turing became a hero in the U.K. during World War II for breaking German codes, but he was persecuted for being gay and was eventually chemically castrated.

Deceased people convicted under antisodomy laws are automatically granted pardons posthumously. Those still living have to apply to the Department of Justice for a pardon, after which their records are cleared. Once the process is complete, they cannot be required to disclose those offenses on job applications.

The Rainbow Project, a Northern Ireland LGBT group, worked with the Department of Justice on the pardon legislation.

"While the U.K. government will never be able to take back what it has done to gay and bi men, it can work to ensure the wrongs of the past will never be repeated," John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, told the BBC.

The establishment of the Turing law in Northern Ireland was the result of a legislative consent motion passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly on the U.K. Policing and Crime Bill in 2016. The bill, which received royal assent in January 2017, only applied to England and Wales prior to the legislative consent motion.

A legislative consent motion allows the Parliament of the United Kingdom to pass laws on matters over which the Northern Ireland Assembly would have authority -- for example, justice-related legislation, under which the issue of pardons falls.

The law would only pardon men convicted of now-decriminalized consensual same-sex acts. Nonconsensual sex acts and acts with those under the age of 16 do not qualify for pardons.

Scotland, the fourth country that is part of the U.K., adopted pardon legislation earlier this month.

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