Media Release: Tasmania To Be First State To Offer Apology To Victims Of Former Anti-Gay Laws

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Tasmanian gay rights advocates have welcomed a state government announcement that it will move legislation next year to allow criminal records for gay sex to be expunged, and have praised its decision to apologise to those who were prosecuted

In 1997 Tasmanian became the final Australian state to decriminalise private, consenting, adult male sex, and it will be the first to provide a formal apology to those arrested and their families.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said,

“For those men who were prosecuted in Tasmania for simply being in same-sex relationships it will be a great relief to be rid of the disadvantage and stigma that comes with an unfair criminal record.”

“I am proud that Tasmania will be the first state to apologise to those arrested and their families because it will lift a burden from their shoulders and send the strongest message yet that Tasmania is a progressive and inclusive society.”

In 2008, in a nationally unprecedented move, the Hobart City Council formally apologised for the arrests of gay law reform advocates at Salamanca Market in 1988.

Mr Croome welcomed the Government’s decision to allow the possibility of expungement for other former “crimes”.

“Tasmania was the only state to criminalise cross dressing and I look forward to people targeted under those provisions having he opportunity to clear their names and their records.”

Mr Croome said his preference is for expungement applications to be made by an independent expert panel, as proposed by the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks.

The other states that have already passed expungement legislation are South Australia, Victoria, NSW, and the ACT. None have offered formal apologies to those arrested.

Under Tasmania’s former anti-gay laws the maximum penalty for consenting adult private male sex was 21 years in gaol, the highest in the western world.

The decade-long campaign to repeal these laws involved the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the Federal Government, the High Court and Amnesty International.

Text from the State Government statement is below.

For more information contact Rodney Croome on 0409 010 668.

Author: Rodney Croome
Publication: Tasmania United for Marriage Equality Press Release
Date: 17 December 2016

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TASMANIAN GOVERNMENT

Vanessa Goodwin, Attorney-General
Expunging historic homosexual convictions

The Tasmanian Liberal Government will introduce legislation next year to expunge historic criminal records for consensual homosexual sexual activity.
The Tasmanian Liberal Party, both in Opposition and in Government, has supported expunging historic criminal records for homosexual activity which was previously illegal.
Additionally, a formal apology to those affected, including families and loved ones of those who are deceased, will be made when the legislation is introduced in the house.
The legislation will expunge convictions for the following offences:
- Section 122(a) – sexual intercourse against the order of nature;
- Section 122(c) – consensual sexual intercourse between males; and
- Section 123 – indecent practices between males.
These sections of the Tasmanian Criminal Code were repealed in 1997 after homosexuality was decriminalised in Tasmania but the repeal did not address the implications for those with existing criminal records pertaining to consensual homosexual activity.
The legislation will ensure that any individual prosecuted under these offences will no longer suffer distress or be disadvantaged by a criminal record in relation to travel, employment, and volunteering.
The legislation will also allow other offences under which people may have been charged for consensual homosexual activity to be added by regulation at a later date so these historical offences can also be expunged from a person’s criminal record.
I thank the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner for her report titled ‘Treatment of historic records for consensual homosexual sexual activity and related conduct’, which has helped to progress this important issue.
The Government has approved some variations from the model for expunging offences proposed by the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, in order to allow us to implement legislation and open the scheme to expunge offences as efficiently and as soon as possible.
Rather than requiring the establishment of a Historic Criminal Records Expert Panel as proposed by the Commissioner, applications will be processed through the Secretary of the Department of Justice, consistent with how other jurisdictions manage this process.
Contact: Chris Medhurst
Phone: 0410600400