A Northern Irish QC has suggested that a pardon for historic gay offenses would be illegal under current equality laws.
TUV leader Jim Allister – who told the Belfast News Letter that he personally opposes moves to issue pardons for homosexuality – said that the Belfast Agreement could make a “selective” pardon unlawful.
“Given Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, it may be discriminatory and thus unlawful in Northern Ireland to offer pardons on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Allister.
“What an irony if those who demand the most on ‘equality grounds’ were denied in Northern Ireland the GB-proposed pardon because it would discriminate on sexual orientation grounds.
“In my opinion it is foolishness to rewrite history by retrospective decriminalisation.”
Allister’s comments follow moves by a member of the House of Lords, Lord Lexden, to introduce a pardon similar to the ones issued in Britain and Wales for men convicted of historic, now-decriminalised homosexual acts.
Conservative peer Lexden tabled a series of amendments to the Government’s Policing and Crime Bill which would see posthumous pardons for convictions involving historic homosexual offences.
If the bill makes it to Stormont, it would be the Northern Irish government’s first vote on gay rights legislation.
One of the proposed amendments would issue retrospective pardons for those convicted under the 1885 law prohibiting “gross indecency between men” and the 1861 legislation outlawing buggery.