Gay rights campaigners have called on Theresa May to compensate men who were convicted under discriminatory, anti-gay laws in the past.
In a letter delivered to the British Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street, Peter Tatchell wrote: ‘Around 100,000 men were convicted of consenting adult same-sex behavior following the outlawing in 1885 of all homosexual acts; with at least 15,000 of these men being convicted after the Sexual Offences Act was legislated in 1967.’
The letter estimates that between 10,000 and 20,000 of the those who were convicted prior to, and following, the 1967 legislation, are still alive.
Rachel Barnes, great niece of Alan Turing, joined Lord Michael Cashman, Peter Tatchell and Stephen Close, in delivering the letter.
Close, was convicted of a consenting gay offence with another soldier, while serving in the military, in 1983.
‘I was sentenced to six months in a military prison. I lost my job, home, income and pension. My homosexual conviction and ‘discharge with disgrace’ made it very difficult to get another job’, he said.
‘I was near unemployable and was forced to do mediocre, low-paid jobs for three decades years. It caused me severe depression and ruined my life.’
Speaking to Gay Star News, Tatchell said any compensation should start at £5,000, but could be higher depending on the extremity of the cases.
‘The priority right now is to secure the government’s commitment to the principle of compensation,’ he said. ‘The terms can be negotiated later. I would have thought a minimum of £5,000, with additional compensation based on each person’s sentence and suffering.
He added that compensation eligibility would be based on those previously convicted already having been granted a disregard or pardon.
Legal action could follow if compensation requests ignored
Tatchell also said legal action could be the next step, if the compensation request falls on deaf ears.
‘We plan to liaise with Jonathan Cooper re a possible legal action, depending on the government’s response’, he said. Jonathan Cooper is a top international human rights lawyer, who specializes in LGBT issues.
Rachel Barnes, whose great uncle was convicted under old anti-gay laws, said she thinks her uncle would have wanted compensation for those affected.
‘No amount of compensation can undo the damage and trauma that these men have had in their lives, but I do feel that some sort of recompense would help these men and would be some sort of apology from the government.’
Lord Cashman told Gay Star News financial settlements were an important part in getting governments to recognise their past sins.
‘It’s part of a state recognising it has done wrong, and I have to say the wrong continues,’ Lord Michael Cashman told Gay Star News outside Downing Street.
‘I’ve pushed and managed to get the government to widen the disregards and pardons into other areas that are no longer considered homosexual convictions.’
Cashman added it was vital to keep pushing for LGBT rights, especially with Brexit on the horizon. ‘Politics is like geology, without pressure nothing changes.’
It’s been a busy month for human rights and LGBT activist, Tatchell. He was arrested in Moscow protesting Russia’s treatment of LGBT rights ahead of the World Cup starting.
After being released he returned to the UK just in time to launch a report on the economic cost of homophobia around the world.