Page 3153 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

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Spent Convictions (Historical Homosexual Convictions Extinguishment) Amendment Bill 2015

Mr Corbell, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Capital Metro) (10.07): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I am pleased to present the Spent Convictions (Historical Homosexual Convictions Extinguishment) Amendment Bill 2015. The role of this legislature is to introduce and pass laws that reflect and support community standards. The bill that I introduce today reflects the prevailing view of our community that consensual homosexual sex is not a criminal offence and that people should never have received a conviction for such an offence.

The bill recognises that a person with a criminal conviction for an offence in relation to consensual homosexual sex should not have their prospects for employment or voluntary work, licensing or travel opportunities limited by a sexual conviction on their criminal record.

Until November 1976 consensual homosexual sex was illegal in the ACT. In November 1976 the Australian government made the Law Reform (Sexual Behaviour) Ordinance 1976 which decriminalised consensual acts of buggery committed in private. Prior to 1976, it was an offence under the Crimes Act 1900 for a person to commit homosexual acts. Section 79 of the act stated:

Whosoever commits the abominable crime of buggery shall be liable to penal servitude for life or any term not less than five years.

As well as a conviction for buggery on a male person, a person may have also been charged with attempted buggery or indecent assault on a male person. Consent or lack of consent was not an element of these offences. The number of men with a criminal conviction for homosexual sex is not known. However, it is estimated that a small number of relevant convictions do exist in the ACT.

Therefore, the scheme created by the bill will allow people to apply to have their convictions erased permanently from their records. This differs from the approach for spent convictions where people’s convictions still need to be declared when applying for working with vulnerable people checks. This approach acknowledges that consensual sexual activity should not be treated as criminal regardless of when it occurred.

This bill supports the right to recognition and equality before the law as provided for by section 8 of the Human Rights Act 2004. Section 8 provides that everyone is equal

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