Wiping historical homosexual convictions

While consensual sex between men aged 16 and over has been legal in New Zealand since 1986, men with historical homosexual convictions can face ongoing stigma and prejudice.

To address this, the Government has introduced the Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill.

The Bill would set up a scheme to allow men who were convicted of specific offences that have since been decriminalised to apply to be treated as if they had never been convicted. 

Who will be able to apply?

People will be eligible to apply if they were convicted of specific offences relating to consensual sexual activity between males 16 years and over. The offences are:

  • section 141 (indecency between males) Crimes Act 1961
  • section 142 (sodomy) Crimes Act 1961
  • section 146 (keeping place of resort for homosexual acts) Crimes Act 1961
  • section 153 (unnatural offence) Crimes Act 1908 but only for offences committed with any other male human being
  • section 154 (attempt to commit unnatural offence) Crimes Act 1908 but only for offences attempted to be committed with or against any other male human being

People with historical convictions will be able to apply themselves, or someone else (such as a relative) could apply on their behalf if the person has died.

How will I apply?

It’s expected that the Secretary for Justice, who will decide whether convictions will be expunged, will start considering applications in mid 2018 if the Bill becomes law.

People will need to meet the application criteria set out in the Bill and provide supporting information. Applications will be treated in confidence and the privacy of applicants and other parties respected.

Applicants would have to show, on the balance of probabilities, that the sexual activity they were convicted of is no longer illegal – this will generally involve an assessment of whether the activity was consensual and involved adults over 16.

If a person’s conviction is expunged, their conviction will not appear on a criminal history check for any purpose in New Zealand. For example, in situations where they have to disclose criminal convictions (such as on job applications), they’ll be able to declare they had no such conviction.

Find out more about the bill

Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill (external link)

Questions and answers