Alan's story - erasing convictions left-over from unjust laws against homosexuality

"Hours past midnight one night in 1988, I went for a walk along Cairns foreshore, which was a fairly notorious beat in those days. I spotted a young attractive man who I noticed looking me up and down. Little did I know that the man was in fact a police officer. I followed him to a secluded area and I circled him several times, eventually getting closer and closer. I made a comment about the loud noise of cars doing burn outs nearby and he said "I'm not interested in that, I'm interested in you". I brushed against him and he said "that's a pity, I'm a police officer". The promise of intimate pleasures quickly evaporated into being finger printed and my mug shot being taken at the nearby police station.

At the station I answered their questions and was co-operative. My father was a police officer so I thought this was the right thing to do. I was asked whether I had displayed adequate control over my sexual urges. I said clearly not if this has happened. Then the charge of aggravated sexual assault was laid against me for that one touch in a dark, secluded park. I still wonder what would have happened if I said I could control my urges. I was not offered any legal advice or meaningful counsel that fateful night or by the over worked duty solicitor at my court appearance. Having no idea of the consequences my naive decision not to contest the charge would be, I was subsequently convicted and my name irrevocably tarnished. I’ve been living with a criminal conviction for ‘aggravated sexual assault’ ever since.

There are many ways that life changed for me after that night. I am a convicted criminal in the cold, clinical eyes of the law and I have lived with the constant threat that my past may come back to haunt me at any time. I could no longer pursue a lifelong dream of a teaching career, or volunteer at a local respite centre for disabled adults. It was even an anxious and embarrassing wait while my application to tutor non-English speaking adult students was processed. The idea of an overseas holiday to the US was put out of reach.

I have always been open about my sexuality but I avoid telling people about my conviction if I can. Only a few close friends know about it. If I think about it, the shame that I feel has probably taken its toll. Even when I first learnt about this research report and the possibility that one day I might be able to wipe my conviction from my record I felt an enormous sense of relief. I think that there had been something that I had been bottling up and hadn’t really acknowledged.

I look back and wonder how this could have happened to me. We’re not talking about ancient times, we’re talking about recent living memory when police resources were allocated to entrapping young gay men.

My case and situation is only one of many. So many of us have had our lives turned upside down because we have been trapped by overzealous police officers enforcing discriminatory laws. As a society we have moved on but people like me still live with the consequences. Words cannot describe the overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude I felt when I heard the LGBTI Legal Service and others had decided to take up the task of correcting these past injustices on our collective behalf. It’s time for the Queensland government to act and confront this wrong."

- Alan Raabe 

 Media Release: Legal and community groups call for leftover homosexual convictions to be erased