Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland men convicted for being gay to be pardoned within weeks

By Allan Preston

Hundreds of men in Northern Ireland who were convicted for being in a consensual gay relationship in the past will be able to clear their names within weeks.

Yesterday, 'Turing's Law' was extended to Northern Ireland following a Lord's amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill in Westminster.

The law was named after World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing, who - despite his key role in helping the Allies win the war - was branded a criminal and chemically castrated for being gay.

He died of cyanide poisoning in a suspected suicide, but was posthumously pardoned in 2013.

Homosexuality was not decriminalised in Northern Ireland until 1982. UUP councillor and gay rights campaigner Jeff Dudgeon helped to draft yesterday's amendment with the Conservative peer Lord Lexden.

"We put this into effect a month ago and it was a remarkably seamless operation in the end and wonderful that Northern Ireland has not been left out," he said.

He said he knew people in public sector roles who still had to explain their convictions on job applications.

"There's also a number I know who were jailed and have since died. Their relatives have had to live with a certain badge of shame over the decades. Younger people cannot conceive of how harsh the law was," he said.

"People like Ernie Thompson and Jim Kempson who ran the first gay bar in Belfast, the Chariot rooms, they were jailed in the 1960s."

NIO Minister Kris Hopkins called the amendment "an important milestone for tolerance and equality."

Applications can be made to the Department of Justice early next year.

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