T he Protection of Freedom Act, which among other things enables men to wipe away their criminal records of acts which are now consensual, has received Royal Assent. The Act was promised by David Cameron in 2010 before the last election and by February 2011 it was ready to be presented to Parliament. The Act clears up several areas of law relating to personal freedom such as the regulation of biometric data, regulation of surveillance and safeguarding vulnerable groups. Part 5, Chapter 4 allows men convicted of gross indecency, a law removed from the statute books in 2003, to remove the conviction from their records. As the age of consent has now been equalised, men who were convicted of sleeping with a minor who would now be considered over the age of consent can also clear their record.
It is thought that in the last 100 years, 100,000 men were convicted of crimes which are no longer on the statute books. However, the crimes were not retroactive which means their criminal record was still marked with a conviction for sexual offences. This meant applying for jobs and many volunteer positions were impossible. Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: ‘Victorian morality has absolutely no place in 21st-century Britain. We know of many gay men with homophobic convictions on their records who have been dissuaded from looking for work or volunteering their time to good causes. They will be delighted by this important new law, which will help many men look forward to a brighter future. We hope the new measures will now be implemented as quickly as possible.’