The announcement by the Queensland Attorney-General that the Queensland Law Reform Commission will examine how historical convictions for consensual homosexual conduct can be removed from a person’s criminal record has been welcomed by community and legal groups.
“It’s pleasing to see the Queensland Government building on the work of other jurisdictions and working to right historical wrongs. We hope to see legislation passed by the end of 2016 to help the hundreds of Queenslanders living with the practical and psychological impacts of a criminal conviction for conduct that should never have been a crime,” said Ms Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.
The QLRC will have a head start on their inquiry given that a coalition of community and legal groups delivered a major research report to the QLRC and Attorney-General in October 2015 outlining a blue print for the reforms.
“The LGBTI Legal Service is very excited to see the Palaszczuk Government considering this issue and working towards an outcome that addresses the serious impact of historical convictions for consensual sexual activity,” said Mr Emile McPhee, Director of the LGBTIQ Legal Service, who led the coalition in preparing the report.
The coalition of organisations including the LGBTIQ Legal Service, the Human Rights Law Centre, Brisbane Pride Festival, Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services and Caxton Legal Centre look forward to working with the QRLC and Government to develop the scheme. Individuals with convictions are encouraged to come forward to share their stories with the QLRC.
“Any Queenslander who has been convicted of one of these crimes should come forward and speak to the Law Reform Commission. You can have a real influence on this inquiry, and on protecting the rights of all Queenslanders living with these historical convictions,” said James Farrell, Director of the Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services.
One man whose story is shared in the report is Alan Raabe, who was convicted for sexual assault in 1988. Alan hoping the Queensland Government will act soon to repair the harm caused by the criminalisation of homosexual conduct. Talking about the impact the conviction had, Alan said:
“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.” (Read more of Alan’s story here.)
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. The President of the Brisbane Pride Festival and lecturer at QUT, Peter Black, recognises the importance of the reform.
“This step is the culmination of the efforts of thousands of LGBTI individuals over the last 40 plus years. 25 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in Queensland, we are finally at a point where people can finally be freed of the conviction,” said Mr Black.
In Queensland, homosexuality was criminalised until 1990. During that time, men (and women) who engaged in consensual sexual activity could be charged with any number of offences, ranging from indecency to ‘unnatural offences’ and sodomy.
These moves in Queensland follow the introduction of spent convictions legislation that applies to homosexual offences in South Australia in 2013, the enactment of schemes to comprehensively ‘expunge’ or ‘extinguish’ historical homosexual offences in VIC, NSWS and the ACT and legislation to be imminently introduced in Tasmania. Victoria and Tasmania have also committed to formally apologising for past criminalisation of homosexual conduct.
Scott McDougall (Caxton Legal Centre), Anna Brown (Human Rights Law Centre), James Farrell (QAILS), Fiona Thatcher (Allens law firm), Emile McPhee (LGBTIQ Legal Service), Pete Black (Brisbane Pride Festival) with a copy of the report presented to the QLD Government and Queensland Law Reform Commission in October 2015.
For further comment and queries please contact:
Emile McPhee, Executive Director, LGBTI Legal Service Inc. on 0438 766 176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Black, President, Brisbane Pride Festival on 0421 636 496
Anna Brown, Director – Advocacy & Strategic Litigation, Human Rights Law Centre, on 0422 235 522 or email@example.com
James Farrell, Director, Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services, on 0411206 835
Interviews with Alan Raabe can be arranged by contacting:
Tom Clarke, Director of Communications
Human Rights Law Centre
0422 545 763 firstname.lastname@example.org