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Homosexual convictions to be expunged

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/02/2017 Karen Sweeney

Men convicted of homosexual acts that are now legal in New Zealand will be able to apply have their convictions expunged.

Justice Minister Amy Adams has apologised for the hurt caused and says although the impact on the lives of those affected can never be undone, it's hoped this will provide a meaningful pathway for convictions to be wiped.

Ms Adams will introduce legislation to parliament later this year.

It will allow people with specific convictions relating to consensual sexual activity between men 16 years and over, which was decriminalised in 1986, to apply for free to the Secretary of Justice to have the conviction expunged.

Specific convictions include indecency between males, sodomy and keeping places of resort for homosexual acts.

"There is no doubt that homosexual New Zealanders who were convicted and branded as criminals for consensual activity suffered tremendous hurt and stigma and we are sorry for what those men and their families have gone through and the continued effect the convictions have had on them," she said on Thursday.

It's the first time New Zealand has sought to allow to expunge convictions because views and laws have changed.

It's expected the legislation will have cross-party support.

Act leader David Seymour has backed the move as "absolutely the right thing".

"There's always been some technical concerns around how the pardons would be done but I'm pleased that (Amy Adams) has done it because it's absolutely wrong for people to continue to be vilified 30 years later for something that should never have been a crime," he said.

Labour justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern welcomed the decision but questioned if the government could have gone further, noting it had not gone with a blanket approach.

"In the select committee we were hoping that some categories of offences could have been dealt with in a more straightforward way. We urge the government to rethink their approach to some of these cases," she said.

"On balance this is a hugely positive move that rights some terrible wrongs in our past."

Ms Adams said a blanket process for expungement had been considered but wouldn't be appropriate because the law against homosexuality didn't distinguish between consensual and non-consensual activity.

About 1000 men are expected to be eligible, while family members will be able to apply on behalf of people who have since died.

"The only question to be answered in the application process will be whether the conduct would still be criminal today," Ms Adams said.

"If a person's application is approved government records will be amended so that the conviction does not appear in any criminal history checks and they'll be entitled to declare that they have never had such a conviction."

Currently convictions can appear in criminal history checks and need to be declared in some job applications and when travelling overseas.

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