The Government will introduce a new scheme to wipe historical convictions for homosexual offences, Justice Minister Amy Adams has announced.
Under the scheme, historical convictions will be quashed on a case-by-case basis. The scheme also explicitly rules out compensation for those convicted under the act, thought to number nearly 200 convicted before homosexuality was legalised in 1986.
“While the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 decriminalised consensual sex between men aged 16 and over, convictions for those offences remain on record and can appear in criminal history checks,” Ms Adams says.
“Although we can never fully undo the impact on the lives of those affected, this new scheme will provide a pathway for their convictions to be expunged. It means people will be treated as if they had never been convicted, and removes the ongoing stigma and prejudice that can arise from convictions for homosexual offences.
“I acknowledge the pain that these New Zealanders have lived with and hope that this will go some way toward addressing that.”
NZ First MP Winston Peters is the only politician who was in parliament at the time of the 1986 bill. Peters voted against the bill to decriminalise homosexuality. In comments to Stuff.co.nz he argued that his vote was a response to the AIDS epidemic rather than an explicit condemnation of homosexuality.
People with convictions for specific offences relating to consensual sexual activity between men 16 years and over will be eligible to apply to the Secretary of Justice to have the conviction expunged, an approach consistent with other overseas jurisdictions, such as Australia.
If a person’s application is approved, government records will be amended so the conviction does not appear in criminal history checks and they will be entitled to declare they have no such conviction.
The application process will be free for applicants. Decisions will be made by the Secretary of Justice, without the need for formal court hearings or for applicants to appear in person.
Ms Adams says the Government intends to introduce legislation to implement the scheme in the coming months.