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Lawmakers urged to honour gay victim

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/10/2016

A select committee considering a petition for an apology to those convicted under the old anti-gay laws for consensual acts has been told it should honour the memory of a gay man beaten to death in a Christchurch park more than 50 years ago.

A petition from Wiremu Demchick with 2112 signatures calls for an official apology to, and pardon of, people convicted of consensual homosexual acts before 1986 when the law was changed.

The Humanist Society is backing the petition and in its submission to the justice and electoral select committee said those convicted under the old laws deserved to have a wrong put right.

It raised the cases of Charles Aberhart, a man convicted of an indecent act with a man who was beaten to death in Hagley Park in 1964, and the conviction of celebrated author Frank Sargeson for a homosexual act as examples of those who had suffered under the old laws.

"New Zealand owes it to Charles Aberhart, to Frank Sargeson and to many many other less memorable to publicly pardon and exonerate them from a crime that is not a crime and wipe away the last trace of that shame and that fear," member Hugh Young said.

Committee member Louisa Wall said the most contentious issue in the petition was identifying who should be granted a pardon and how to weigh that up with the respective laws in place at the time.

Justice Minister Amy Adams has previously said the old law didn't distinguish between consensual and non-consensual acts, so each case would need to be assessed on its merits.

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