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Disregarding the Past: The Problems of Pardoning Homosexual Offences

Event type
History of Sexuality
Event dates
, 5:15PM - 7:15PM
Dreyfus Room, Birkbeck, 28 Russell Square
Justin Bengry (Goldsmiths, University of London)
co-hosted with Parliaments, Politics & People seminar
020 7862 8740
"This paper critically examines the 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act, which created the disregard process, and the 2017 Policing and Crime Act, which introduced statutory pardons for some men convicted of some homosexual offences. It demonstrates that amid disagreements among Parliamentarians there has been little willingness on the part of the government to offer more than caveat-laden apologies and limited action to redress past injustices. Despite media releases and popular understandings that place the number of pardons in the tens of thousands, legislation in England and Wales has only impacted a handful of living men. Queer men convicted for activity that included no sexual impropriety continue to be criminalised and denied the opportunity to clear their names. North of the border, however, in Scotland more expansive legislation has been passed that actually builds upon a bill defeated at Westminster, opening up further questions about who is worthy of exoneration. 

Dr Justin Bengry is Lecturer in Queer History at Goldsmiths, University of London where he convenes the world’s first MA in Queer History. He is a cultural historian of sexualities and the queer past focusing on twentieth-century Britain. His primary research is into relationships between homosexuality and capitalism, but is also interested in current policy surrounding ‘gay pardons’ and queer local histories. His work has been published in History Workshop Journal, Media History, and several edited collections. His monograph project The Pink Pound: Capitalism and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Britain is under contract with the University of Chicago Press.