EXCL SNP MP John Nicolson condemns government 'trickery pokery' over gay pardon law

Posted On: 
20th October 2016

An SNP MP has accused the Government of "trickery pokery" after it announced thousands of gay and bisexual men are to receive posthumous pardons for abolished sexual offences.

John Nicolson has accused the Government of playing 'games'
PA Images

John Nicolson said he was disappointed that his own private members' bill, which proposes a blanket pardon for all those convicted before homosexuality was decriminalised, will not receive ministerial backing.

The Government announced today that anyone convicted of homosexuality can apply through the Home Office to have their names cleared through what is known as the "disregard process", which removes any mention of an offence from criminal record checks.

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Justice minister Sam Gyimah said the move, which will be introduced as an amendment to the police an crime bill currently going through parliament, was “hugely important”.

The Liberal Democrats - who led the campaign for existing convictions to be quashed - heralded the announcement as a “momentous day”.

But speaking to PoliticsHome, Mr Nicolson accused the Government of playing "games" and said the new law "prioritised the dead over the living".

He said: "I really don’t this kind of parliamentary trickery pokery impresses the voters. I was being consistent that I wanted this to be a non-party political issue and I’ve been delighted by the support I’ve got from all parties across the Commons, so I think the Government should do what it said it would do and support my bill."

Mr Nicolson, the MP for east Dunbartonshire, also said attaching the changes onto another piece of legislation gave the impression it was an "afterthought".

“They promised me no tricks and no games, it seems to me a bit of an odd decision that they’ve taken," he said.

"In particular tacking it onto the policing bill, it seems like a bit of odd decision for such an important legislation, it seems like rather of an afterthought.”

He added: "I think it’s great to give posthumous pardons and of course that will comfort relatives, but I think it is much more important to bring comfort to the living so it seems to prioritise the dead over the living.

"What I want to do is to focus on the living and to give a sense of closure to often quite elderly men who have spent their whole lives living with a conviction which was quite improper for our perspective."

The new measures follow a government pledge to amend the law after World War Two code-breaker Alan Turing was pardoned in 2013.

Explaining the Government decision, Mr Gyimah said: "A blanket pardon, without the detailed investigations carried out by the Home Office under the disregard process, could see people guilty of an offence which is still a crime today claiming to be pardoned.

"This would cause an extraordinary and unnecessary amount of distress to victims and for this reason the Government cannot support the private Mmembers’ bill. Our way forward will be both faster and fairer."