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Saturday 08 April 2017

Historic convictions can be quashed

Posted in: People
By - 9th February 2017

Here is the full wording of the government's announcement this afternoon that it has agreed to the case-by-case quashing of historical convictions for gay sex prosecuted under laws made obsolete by the Homosexual Law Reform Act of 1986:


The Government will introduce a new scheme to address historical convictions for homosexual offences, Justice Minister Amy Adams has announced.

“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.”

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. 

“As there may be instances where the offending involved conduct that is still unlawful today, we can’t apply a broad brush approach to wiping convictions. The scheme will involve a case-by-case approach,” Ms Adams says.

Ms Adams says the Government intends to introduce legislation to implement the scheme in the coming months.

Who is eligible to apply under the scheme? 

People will be eligible to apply if they were convicted of specific offences under the Crimes Act 1961 relating to sexual activity between males 16 years and over that were decriminalised by the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986. The offences are: section 141 (indecency between males), section 142 (sodomy), section 146 (keeping place of resort for homosexual acts).

The threshold for granting an application would be satisfaction on the balance of probabilities that the conduct in question would no longer constitute a criminal offence – this means the sexual activity must have been consensual and involved adults 16 years or over

When will the scheme be introduced?

It is anticipated that the scheme will begin in 2018 - as soon as the necessary law changes are in place. The Government intends to introduce a Bill to Parliament before the House rises for the election. Members of the public will have an opportunity to make submissions on how the scheme should work when the Bill is before a select committee. 

What does ‘expungement’ mean?

An eligible applicant’s records will be ‘expunged’. This means their criminal record would be amended to ensure the conviction does not appear on a criminal history check for any purpose in New Zealand and they will be entitled to declare they have no such conviction.

Can someone whose conviction is quashed claim compensation?

No, this is ruled out by the Government's enabling bill.

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- 9th February 2017