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DUP: We’ll look at any pardon proposals over same-sex convictions

By Cate McCurry

Published 29/10/2016

Jeffrey Dudgeon
Jeffrey Dudgeon

The DUP has said it will "examine any proposal" for gay and bisexual men who were convicted of now defunct sexual offences in Northern Ireland to receive pardons.

Last week, the UK government said it is to pardon men who were convicted of same-sex offence laws before homosexuality was decriminalised.

The DUP said it recognised the "historical hurt" the convictions had on gay and bisexual men and said it also supported the UK government in the pardoning of World War Two code-breaker Alan Turing for gross indecency in 2013.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist and veteran gay rights campaigner Jeffrey Dudgeon, has written to the Secretary of State for Justice to ask for the law to be extended to Northern Ireland.

It comes after the Department of Justice confirmed the law does not apply here as justice is a devolved matter.

Though the Justice Minister, Claire Sugden, said she would consider the issue when "forming policy priorities" for the Executive's legislative programme - within the next five years.

The number of men convicted of the offence in Northern Ireland is not widely known.

In December 1958, 19 men from Lurgan were charged with gross indecency and other charges involving indecency.

One man was jailed for three years while six others were jailed for one year.

Mr Dudgeon, who fought to legalise homosexuality here, was joined by party colleague MP Danny Kinahan in his call to the UK government to support amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill in order to extend posthumous pardons.

In the letter, they said: "It is vital to stress that the men who were convicted under these unfair laws, would be innocent of any crime today.

"At its core this is an issue of fairness.

"We believe that the most efficient way of ensuring that the legislation extends to Northern Ireland, is for the UK government to bring forward or support pragmatic amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill.

"This would then enable the Northern Ireland Assembly to give its approval via a Legislative Consent Motion."

Mr Dudgeon, who was arrested under the old gross indecency law, said it was important for this to happen for those who were convicted and the relatives of the dead.

He added: "It's a disgrace if Stormont doesn't act quickly to bring about a law change, it's unfortunately rather typical that we are left out."

A DUP spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph: "DUP MPs supported the campaign in parliament to grant a pardon to Alan Turing.

"The party will examine any proposal to offer such pardons locally within Northern Ireland.

"We recognise the historical hurt that such convictions impose on many gay and bisexual men."

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