News State NSW News NSW could erase gay sex convictions
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NSW could erase gay sex convictions

A rainbow flag at Sydney Town Hall
There is broad support to clear men convicted over gay sex before homosexuality was decriminalised.
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MPs from across the NSW political spectrum have flagged support for new laws that would wipe clean the criminal records of men convicted on outdated anti-homosexual laws.

But the government has warned rushing through new laws would risk inadvertently clearing pedophiles’ names.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine on Sunday announced that men prosecuted for having gay sex under historic laws could apply to have their convictions erased under laws before that state’s parliament this year.

Victoria decriminalised homosexuality in 1981, and NSW did so three years later.

A spokeswoman for NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith told AAP the government would consider laws of its own, and will consult with groups including NSW Police and legal bodies.

“The law covered consensual and non-consensual sexual acts and it is important to ensure any changes do not inadvertently clear pedophiles and other sexual predators who were rightly convicted for criminal behaviour against male victims,” she said.

But Mr Smith indicated his support for new laws, telling the ABC on Monday: “I think it can be done, and there’s no obstacle that I’m going to put in front of it.”

Independent MP and prominent gay rights campaigner Alex Greenwich wants to put a bill before parliament by the end of the year.

“As is the case with the proposed Victorian legislation, safeguards would be in place in my bill to ensure statutory declarations are signed by all parties associated with the cases to ensure victims of non-consensual acts are protected,” Mr Greenwich said.

“Sufficient court records and case evidence does exist that would enable the designated authority to differentiate which acts were consensual and non-consensual.”

Acting NSW Labor leader Linda Burney said any new laws would need to be carefully considered but they had her in-principle support.

“I very much support the idea that men convicted under terribly old-fashioned, regressive laws around their sexuality should not have to carry that with them for the rest of their lives,” she told AAP.

Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi said the “hateful” anti-gay laws that existed until the 1980s continued to dog men who were convicted under them.

“The convictions could easily be expunged and make a real difference to people’s lives,” she said.