Thursday 05 May 2022

 

Minister McEntee publishes update on work to disregard certain historic convictions of gay and bisexual men

 

 

 

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has today published a progress report from the Working Group to Examine the Disregard of Convictions for Certain Qualifying Offences Related to Consensual Sexual Activity between Men.

 

Publishing the progress report, Minister McEntee said:

 

“The Victorian-era laws which were repealed by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 caused immeasurable harm to generations of gay and bisexual men, criminalising and stigmatizing them simply because of their sexual orientation.

 

I am very conscious that nearly 30 years later, the damage that was caused by these laws continues to impact negatively on too many people’s lives. While this harm can never be fully undone, I am strongly committed to bringing to Government and publishing a scheme to disregard convictions for qualifying offences prior to decriminalisation in 1993.

 

I would like to thank the members of the Working Group for the important work which they are doing in considering a range of complex issues relating to the development of such a scheme. I have decided to publish this progress report in order to highlight the good progress made to date and to draw attention to the key issues identified which both the group and I believe would benefit from a final round of targeted public consultation prior to finalisation of our proposals.

 

I would encourage all those with an interest in this subject to read the progress report and to engage in the public consultation, which will launch in the coming weeks.”

 

The Working Group consists of representatives from the Department of Justice, An Garda Síochána, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the Office of the Attorney General and three members of the LGBTI+ community with expertise in this area.

 

The report identifies progress made by the group to date on a number of key issues, as well as proposed next steps. Some of these key issues include identifying appropriate records, what happens to records, criteria for a conviction to be eligible for a disregard, and offences to be included under the disregard scheme.

 

Among the interim recommendations of the group is that the term ‘disregard’ replace the term ‘expungement’ in all relevant communications, pending final recommendations. An approach that involves entirely removing or destroying records of unjustly applied offences would not be considered appropriate due to it eliminating records and therefore evidence of such injustice. It would also frustrate the efforts of researchers and historians to explore the relevant topic in the future. For this reason, the Working Group strongly recommends a ‘disregard’ rather than ‘expungement’ (destruction) approach to relevant records.

 

The purpose of the proposed public consultation is to allow representative organisations and affected people to provide input, based on  their lived experience, on a number of key issues identified by the Working Group as requiring further input from affected communities, which will inform the Group’s final deliberations, and ensure more effective policy making and implementation.

 

The public consultation will be launched in the coming weeks. As set out in Justice Plan 2022, the final report of the Working Group is scheduled for submission to the Minister by the end of Q3 2022, subject to the conclusion and outcome of the consultation process.

 

ENDS

 

Notes for Editors:

 

The report can be found in the following link: https://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Disregard_Convictions_WG_Progress_Report.pdf/Files/Disregard_Convictions_WG_Progress_Report.pdf

 

On 1 March 2021, Minister McEntee approved the establishment of the Working Group with the membership confirmed in June 2021. Since its establishment the Working Group has met on four occasions: 16 July, 17 September, 25 November and 30 November 2021.

 

The Working Group is composed of the following members:

 

The Working Group is tasked with the following:

1.To examine the feasibility of identifying appropriate records which may support a decision to expunge or disregard a record of conviction for consensual same-sex acts between men prior to decriminalisation in 1993. The Working Group will assess the availability and quality of records held by An Garda Síochána which relate to the offences concerned in order to determine the feasibility of putting in place a scheme to disregard the criminal convictions.

2.To examine issues regarding criminal records relating to consensual same sex relationships prior to decriminalisation in 1993 (e.g. can the disclosure of historic criminal records be facilitated?).

3.To consider, define and determine the offences to be included or excluded and to agree standards to meet before the criminal convictions can be expunged or disregarded for qualifying offences.

4.To examine the need for, and feasibility of, establishing a scheme for expunging or disregarding convictions for qualifying offences relating to consensual sexual acts between adult males.

5.To examine the possibility of putting in place a legislative scheme similar to that in place in England and Wales, or any other relevant jurisdictions, to address this issue. That would involve a consideration of each individual case, on application by the individual concerned or a representative to determine, for example, whether the acts involved were consensual and whether a person under the current applicable age of consent was involved, with a view to expunging/disregarding convictions for qualifying offences.

6.To compile an interim report of recommendations for the Minister for Justice no later than the end of Q4, or at the earliest date thereafter.

7.To make any other recommendations in relation to the development of any scheme to the Minister for Justice no later than Q3 2022, or at the earliest date thereafter.