January 13, 2022
At the beginning of January 2022, the government announced that it will extend its pardons policy to cover convictions for same-sex sexual activity that has affected gay and bisexual people for decades.
This campaign formed the basis of the Justice First Fellowship project that Katy Watts (cohort 1) instigated and developed as part of her Fellowship at host organisation Public Law Project. Terry Stewart, Katy’s client, has been at the forefront of the campaign to extend the pardons policy and when Katy later moved jobs from PLP to Liberty, Terry’s case and campaign came with her. Katy and Terry have been pushing for this change in policy since 2017.
“Terry was convicted for ‘soliciting or importuning’ in 1983. Importuning was an offence of a man chatting up another man for “an immoral purpose”. No sexual activity actually had to take place.
The conviction appears on a criminal records check as a sex offence. It has blighted Terry’s life for nearly 40 years, preventing him from pursuing his chosen career as a social worker and causing stress every time he applies for a voluntary position.
The offence was repealed in 2001. The Home Office itself admitted at the time that the offence was “a means of regulating behaviour between homosexual men, which, if conducted between men and women would be seen as nor than chatting up.” Even after the offence was repealed, men who had been convicted or cautioned were enable to apply to have their convictions deleted from their records.
The change means that, finally, men like Terry who were criminalised for their sexuality will be able to apply to have their convictions deleted by the Home Office.”
We have been writing to the Home Office since 2017. For nearly five years, we were told that this was ‘under review’ and ‘being consulted on’. Thanks to Lord Cashman’s campaign, the government has finally agreed to make the change. Sadly it comes too late for thousands of men whose lives have been destroyed by discriminatory convictions.”
The Foundation is delighted at the outcome of the case and many congratulations to Terry and Katy for their successful work on this. The JFF project plays an important part of the overall Fellowship scheme, helping Fellows to develop wider skills and networks for using the law as a tool for social change. This is a powerful example of how JFFs are working with people and communities to achieve change now and as their careers develop.
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