Men who have been convicted of gay acts on the Isle of Man will automatically be pardoned later this year in what campaigners have called a long overdue and needed change in the law.
Homosexuality was decriminalized on the Isle of Man in 1992 and its first Gay Pride event took place last summer.
Jane Poole-Wilson, Home Secretary, said new legislation would come into force no later than June.
The new law will pardon those convicted of a historic sex offense if the act in question is no longer a crime. While pardons will be automatic, people will have to ask for historical convictions to be stricken from their records as part of a “process of indifference”.
Two years ago, the island’s then chief minister apologized for the way gay people had been treated as their homes were raided and tried for consensual sexual activity.
“Our previous laws discriminated against and criminalized men only for who they were and who they loved,” Howard Quayle said.
“The previous law reflected a different time, a different place. An island of the past. Those who have been convicted of these crimes and their loved ones should no longer have to bear the burden of guilt. They must be considered innocent.
“All involved – the men themselves, their partners, extended family and friends – deserve an unqualified apology from us.”
The coming pardons were welcomed by Alan Shea, a hero of the Manx battle for gay rights. On July 5, 1991, the Manx public holiday of Tynwald Day, he wore a concentration camp uniform made from Marks & Spencer pajamas to petition Parliament to legalize homosexuality, drawing parallels to the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.
Soldiers hissed at Shea as he walked towards Tynwald Hill to argue that he should not face life in prison just for having sex with his partner, Stephen Moore, now her husband. On camera, a furious man denounced Shea and his friends as local children watched with interest.
“It is good that people are finally being pardoned, but we are still awaiting an apology from the Chief Constable of the Isle of Man to apologize for the way the force has persecuted gay people,” Shea said.
He was unable to find a job for 10 years after the Tynwald Day protest and claims his home was placed under constant police surveillance, questioning everyone who came in and out.
Shea has never been arrested but has friends who, some of whom have left the island, will never return. “Many of them are still haunted by the memories of what happened,” he said.
Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, said: “This decision is long overdue and necessary given the intense persecution that LGBT+ people have faced on the Isle of Man over the decades since followed the significant decriminalization of homosexuality in the rest of the UK.”
He echoed Shea’s call for a police apology, saying: “The Isle of Man Police have gone out of their way to target and persecute gay and bisexual men and have conducted a witch hunt without precedent in the UK.”
In 2017, the UK granted thousands of pardons to gay people, following the 2013 royal pardon granted by the Queen to Alan Turing, the mathematician who broke German Enigma codes during World War II. He committed suicide in 1954, aged 41, after his conviction for gross indecency.
The Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom, but is a self-governing British Crown dependency with its own parliament, government and laws. The UK government, on behalf of the crown, is ultimately responsible for its international relations and defence, and provides consular services to its 84,000 citizens.