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LGBTI law: Criminal history

Subjects: Law

English legal history: from criminal offence to protected characteristic

"Buggery is a detestable and abominable sin, amongst Christians not to be named, committed by carnal knowledge against the ordinance of the creator, and order of nature, by mankind with mankind, or with brute beast, or by womankind with brute beast." 2 Coke's Institutes (Ed. 1797), Part III, 58

1781 Jeremy Bentham's An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

1828 Offences Against the Person Act 

27 November 1835. James Pratt and John Smith were hanged; the last executed for homosexual acts in England

1841 Abolition of the Punishment of Death Bill had a section to remove the death penalty for sodomy. It was passed by the House of Commons (123 votes to 61) but failed in the House of Lords at the final reading stage.

1861 Offences Against the Person Act,  death penalty was abolished for acts of sodomy – but punishable by a minimum of 10 years imprisonment.

1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act made any male homosexual act illegal – whether or not a witnessed. Private acts, such as affectionate letters between men, could result in prosecution.

Lesbianism was first discussed in Parliament in 1921 during the stages of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, but its inclusion was rejected.

1957: The Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution in Great Britain chaired by Sir John (later Lord) Wolfenden published its conclusions at the end of an inquiry lasting three years.  Its principal conclusion was that consulting adults (then over 21 years old) should be free to make their own decisions on matters of private morality.
The conclusion was supported, among leading voices, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the British Medical Association, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the National Association of Probation Officers.
It was not adopted by the government.

KB accounts of particular trials. Predominately UK.

KM544 Homosexuality as a sexual offence Not just jurisdictions of the UK but also Australia, Canada, Ireland, NZ, and USA.


Turing's Law

 Pardons for certain abolished offences in England & Wales

Section 164 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 enshrined, in legislation, pardons for those convicted of consensual same-sex relationships in past years. It came into force on 31 January 2017 when the Bill received Royal Assent. (The amendments were first tabled by Lord Sharkey, Lord Cashman and Lord Lexden with government support.)
In January 2022 the Home Secretary announced posthumous pardons: convictions would be wiped from record and an automatic pardon given
Those convicted but still living are required to apply through the Home Office’s disregard process to have their historic convictions removed.
13 June 2023 Women convicted of offences related to being gay can apply to have their convictions removed, under an expansion of the government's pardon scheme. See final link below.

Related Bodleian guide