Tag - decriminalisation

Expungement of Historical Homosexual Convictions

The following media release was published by the Human Rights Law Centre at https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2018/7/23/legal-service-to-clear-unjust-convictions-launched on 23 July 2018:

Righting the wrongs of Queensland’s homophobic past: legal service to clear unjust convictions launched

People in Queensland who have convictions for historic consensual same-sex activity can now apply to have their criminals records removed through the LGBTI Legal Service.

Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, said the team were looking forward to helping repair the lifelong trauma people have endured.

“The aim of this service is to ensure that individuals affected by convictions can finally be free from these unjust charges. This will go some way towards repairing the significant and lasting harm that these homophobic laws had on Queenslanders,” said McPhee.

While consensual homosexual activity was decriminalised on 29 November 1990, convictions for those offences remain on people’s records today. These offences need to be disclosed even decades later when applying for a BlueCard, for government and other positions (such as a police officer), or a visa to travel overseas.

For those who have died with their convictions active, this service presents an opportunity for family members to restore dignity and respect to their memory and name.

Lee Carnie, a Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the service will help repair the harm caused by convictions leftover from when homosexual activity was illegal. The Human Rights Law Centre have been advocating for schemes across the country, and has been providing legal assistance to those with criminal convictions for a number of years.

“People should never have been criminalised because of who they are or who they love. This is a great step towards helping people whose love was criminalised by these unjust laws. Now, at least, the practical barriers imposed by these convictions can be removed,” said Carnie.

Queensland now joins Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Tasmania in providing a system for people to clear their records of unjust convictions. NT is in the process of setting up a scheme and legislation is currently before the WA parliament.

The Human Rights Law Centre have been proud to work alongside a coalition of LGBTI community organisations which have lobbied for this reform for many years — including the LGBTI Legal Service, Queensland AIDS Council, Caxton Legal Centre, Brisbane Pride, Community Legal Centres Queensland and the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group.

To find out more information about how to apply for a conviction to be ‘expunged’ visit the Queensland Government website.

The LGBTI Legal Service encourages members of the community who wish to access the expungement scheme to get in touch. To make a confidential query or an appointment with the LGBTI Legal Service for assistance with an application visit here.

For people in other states requiring assistance please contact the Human Rights Law Centre.

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519

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Righting the wrongs of Queensland’s homophobic past: Government to allow to clear unjust convictions

Overnight, the Queensland Parliament passed a law that will provide a way for people to have convictions for consensual same-sex activity removed from their criminals records.

Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, said the Criminal Law (Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement) Bill 2017 can assist to repair the lifelong trauma people have endured.

“The goal of those reforms is to ensure that individuals affected by those convictions or charges no longer need to disclose them in any circumstances and to go some way towards repairing the significant and lasting harm that these have had on Queenslanders,” said McPhee.

Phil Browne, Convenor of the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group said that it was important to recognise the lasting impact and suffering caused by the historic laws.

“Despite the Legalisation of Gay Sex Act 26 years ago, people with these convictions for consensual activity remain convicted criminals. They haven’t been able to apply for certain jobs or travel to certain countries. They may have endured public arrests leading to being fired, shunned by family and friends, kicked out of accommodation, named in newspapers, and even feeling they were run out of town,” said Browne.

With the new law Queensland joins Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT in providing a system for people to clear their records of unjust convictions.

Peter Black, Vice-President of the Queensland AIDS Council, said the old laws not only impacted upon the individuals convicted for consensual sexual activities, but also contributed to a political climate that sought to marginalise the LGBTIQ community.

“These wounds run deep, which is why it is vital that any expungement scheme be advertised and accessible to a particularly vulnerable cohort of people who have lived through decades of criminalisation, discrimination and stigma,’ said Black.

For those who have died with their convictions active, the reforms present an opportunity for families to restore dignity and respect to their memory and name.

Lee Carnie, a Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the Criminal Law (Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement) Bill 2017 will help repair the harms caused by convictions leftover from when homosexual activity was illegal.

“We welcome the Queensland Government’s important step to help people whose love was criminalised by unjust laws. It’s not only a symbolic win, it will also remove practical barriers imposed by these unfair convictions. This will allow people to move on with their lives. It’s great news, well done to all involved,” said Carnie.

While consensual homosexual activity was decriminalised on 29 November 1990, convictions for those offences remain on people’s records today. These offences need to be disclosed even decades later when applying for a BlueCard, government and other positions (such as a police officer), or a visa to travel overseas.

The LGBTI Legal Service has been proud to work alongside a coalition of LGBTI community organisations which have been lobbying for these reforms for many years — including the Human Rights Law Centre, Queensland AIDS Council, Caxton Legal Centre, Brisbane Pride, Community Legal Centres Queensland and the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group.

Case study: Alan’s story

One man convicted under Queensland’s old laws was Alan Raabe who was convicted of sexual assault in 1988 after he made an overture to a plain clothes police officer at a well know gay beat.

“Being a criminal offence of a sexual nature, I had to abandon any hope of gaining teacher registration in Queensland. I had studied to gain a qualification, but was advised not to proceed with even an application for registration,” said Raabe.

For further comments or queries please contact:

Emile McPhee, Executive Director, LGBTI Legal Service, 0438 766 176.

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The Queensland Government delivers an apology that rights historical wrongs

Alan Raabe and LGBTI advocates will hold a doorstop press conference after the apology takes place in parliament in the courtyard in front of Parliament House.

Time: Immediately after the apology in parliament (approximately 3.00 pm-3.15 pm)
Date: Thursday, 11 May 2017
Location: Parliament House, 2A George St, Brisbane

MEDIA RELEASE: For immediate release: Thursday 11 May 2017

Rights groups including the LGBTI Legal Service, the Queensland AIDS Council and the Human Rights Law Centre have applauded the Queensland Government for today’s apology to people convicted under unjust laws against homosexual acts.

Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, welcomed Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s speech and said the apology recognises the harm that these discriminatory laws have caused.

“These laws have left a legacy of shame and stigma on our community for too long. It’s well and truly time for this legacy to be completely erased from the criminal histories of persecuted gays and lesbians. We welcome this historic moment which brings us one important step closer to equality,” said Mr McPhee.

The Government has also honoured its commitment to introduce a bill to erase criminal records for those convicted of homosexual offences in the past when consensual homosexual conduct was a crime. In Queensland, homosexuality was criminalised until 1990. Until then, men (and women) who engaged in consensual homosexual activity could be charged with any number of offences, ranging from indecency to ‘unnatural offences’ and sodomy.

Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, has successfully advocated for similar legislation and state apologies in other states and territories and welcomed the progress in Queensland.

“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised. This apology from the Queensland Government is a powerful symbolic act that helps to repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and affirm the value of gay, lesbian and bisexual people’s sexuality,” said Ms Brown

Ms Brown added, “These laws had a profound impact on the everyday lives of gay men, lesbians and bisexual people and continue to limit work, travel and volunteering opportunities. By acknowledging the impact of these homophobic laws, the Premier pays respect to the victims of these laws but also to Queensland’s sexual and gender diverse communities.”

Alan’s story

One man convicted under Queensland’s old laws and present for the apology was Alan Raabe. Alan Raabe was convicted of sexual assault in 1988 after he made an overture to a plain clothes police officer at a well know gay beat. Mr Raabe said, “This is the first Queensland government in 30 years which has had the decency to acknowledge the trauma and anguish caused to hundreds of Queenslanders by these convictions. They are the first Queensland government in 30 years with the courage to right these injustices.”

“Being a criminal offence of a sexual nature, I had to abandon any hope of gaining teacher registration in Queensland. I had studied to gain a qualification, but was advised not to proceed with even an application for registration,” added Mr Raabe (Read more of Alan’s story here.)

Response from LGBTI community leaders

Alan’s story is representative of a number of gay men impacted by the history of criminalisation in Queensland, and the damaging legacy of discriminatory laws. Pete Black, Vice President of the Queensland AIDS Council said this was an historic moment for the state.

“The bill, together with the apology from the Premier, is a really important symbolic step for the LGBTIQ community in Queensland. This recognises that homosexuality should never have been against the law, and that gay men and women are entitled to the same rights and freedoms and privacy in their relationships as the rest of the community,” said Mr Black.

“The Queensland AIDS Council saw first-hand the impact the criminalisation of homosexuality had in this state. These laws not only impacted upon the individuals convicted for consensual sexual activities, they also contributed to a political climate that sought to marginalise the LGBTIQ community. This made it even harder for the community and for QuAC to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic when it arrived on our shores. Sadly, many members of our community from this time are no longer with us today. But this reform is welcomed by their families, friends and loved ones and is an opportunity for us all to remember their lives and their loss,” added Mr Black.

Response from Alan Raabe in full

My first reaction upon hearing this most welcome news is to say a huge “Thank you”.  There are two groups of people to whom I owe my thanks.

The first is to that amazing group of dedicated activists who work unacknowledged and quietly behind the scenes. They spend countless hours and enormous energy preparing copious submissions and reports, constantly lobbying politicians for equitable laws for our community. Despite repeated let downs and betrayal by bigoted, hypocritical and ill-informed politicians you never give up. I wish to specifically acknowledge the help and support of Emile McPhee and Anna Brown. Without your efforts none of this would have happened.

The second group of people I wish to thank is the current Palaszczuk government, and in particular the Attorney General Yvette D’Ath. This is the first Queensland government in 30 years which has had the decency to acknowledge the trauma and anguish caused to an estimated 500 Queenslanders by these convictions. They are the first Queensland government in 30 years with the courage to right these injustices. To you, I say a heartfelt “Thank you”.

Read Alan’s story here

The LGBTI Legal Service is continuing to look for stories like Alan’s. If you have a conviction you would like to discuss, please contact the LGBTI Legal Service. Read more here.

The Human Rights Law Centre also provides free legal help and support for individuals with historical convictions across Australia. Read more here.

For all media enquiries including interviews with Alan please contact:

Anna Brown, Director of legal Advocacy: 0422 235 522

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519

Emile McPhee, Executive Director, LGBTI Legal Service: 0438 766 176

Peter Black, Vice-President, Queensland AIDS Council: 0421 636 496

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QLRC submission – expunging criminal convictions

The LGBTI Legal Service is very pleased to have made a further submission to the Queensland Law Reform Commission on the issue of expunging criminal convictions for consensual homosexual activity, a copy of which can be found below.

If anyone can share a story, we strongly encourage you to get in touch with us or the Queensland Law Reform Commission to share.

We thank Allens, Human Rights Law Centre, Queensland AIDS Council, Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services, Caxton Legal Centre and Townsville Community Legal Service for their assistance and input in preparing the submission.

Submission to Queensland Law Reform Commission review of expunging of criminal convictions for historical gay sex offences (PDF, 296.5 KB)
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