From 1 October 2012, people in England and Wales with some convictions and cautions for consensual sex with another man have been able to apply to the Home Office to have these offences disregarded from their criminal records.
Stonewall campaigned hard for the repeal of laws that criminalised consensual sex between men, and to have convictions deleted from people’s records. The inclusion of these unfair former offences on the criminal records of thousands of people stigmatised them, and put many off volunteering or applying for jobs that required a criminal record check.
What does ‘disregarded’ mean?
Any conviction, caution, warning or reprimand that has been ‘disregarded’ should in all circumstances be considered as never having happened. This means it won’t appear on your criminal record or in any criminal record checks. It also means you don’t have to tell anyone about the offence, for example on application forms or in court cases.
What offences can be disregarded?
Only people with convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings under certain laws can have them disregarded. In general this means:
- People convicted or cautioned for having consensual sex with someone over 16
- People convicted or cautioned for 'gross indecency' with another man
- People convicted or cautioned for 'frequenting with intent' (commonly known as 'loitering with intent')
The law is clear that people can only have offences disregarded that are no longer an offence today. When presented with your application, the Home Secretary can only approve it if they are satisfied that the following conditions have been met:
- The other person(s) involved in the offence were 16 or over at the time of the offence
- The offence does not involve sexual activity in a public lavatory (which is still illegal)
What laws were people prosecuted under?
Many people are unaware of exactly what they were cautioned or convicted with, as the police or courts were often not clear what people were charged with. In some cases, the conviction or caution would change during the process. In many other cases, documentation or records have been lost.
The Home Office recognises that not everyone will have complete information about the offences with which they were charged. The application process is designed for you to provide as much information as possible to allow the Home Office to search your records for the specific offences.
The laws covered:
– Section 12 or 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956
– Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824
– Section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861
– Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885
– Section 45 of the Naval Discipline Act 1866
– Section 41 of the Army Act 1881
– Section 41 of the Air Force Act 1917
– Section 70 of the Army Act 1955
– Section 70 of the Air Force Act 1955
– Section 42 of the Naval Discipline Act 1957
If you are unsure what offences you received a conviction or caution for, you can check a copy of your criminal record. You can also apply for a ‘subject access request’ from the police force where you were charged. If you remain unsure of the offence for which you were convicted or cautioned you can apply to the Home Office. They will try to establish the offences listed on your record and whether these can be disregarded.
For further information contact Stonewall's Information Service.