The Conservative plan to erase criminal records for convicted homosexuals
It dealt with David Cameron’s ‘heart and soul’ commitment to gay equality. Cranmer received two requests from communicants to contribute, but he passively demurred. Tim Montgomerie perceived that the thread was being used to attack the Conservative Party, and (this being a sensitive time) he decided to limit that damage.
It is not Cranmer’s intention to offer succour to Labour trolls, or to damage the Conservative Party. But there are one or two things which require a little examination in the never-ending quest for ‘gay equality’. And the Conservative Party is still a ‘broad church’, even in an age in which it is becoming shameful for people in public life to admit that they are a member of any church.
It would be invidious, indeed, despotic, to legislate and then seek to apply statutory provisions retrospectively, thereby criminalising those who were obeying the law at the time. If you were driving along a road at 50 miles an hour quite legally, but the limit were made 30 the following day, you would hardly expect to receive a speeding ticket (this has been the principal defence of many MPs who have been forced to pay back £1000s of expenses which were legitimate and perfectly legal when they were claimed).
Equally so, The Conservative proposal to amend criminal records for gays retrospectively – the state thereby permitting what it once prohibited – is of a questionable moral provenance.
This is not a matter of sexuality, and neither should the comment thread be overly concerned with the matter: the more important issue is using contemporary permission to negate historic prohibition.
Where does that end?
If Parliament today disestablished the Church of England, does it simultaneously pardon Sir Thomas More?
If Parliament today once again permitted the people to own handguns (or, in the words of the Bill of Rights 1689, ‘that the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law’), should those who have been criminalised since 1997 be pardoned and no longer have disclose a firearms offence?
If Parliament acknowledges today that a tax was unjust (which may be implied even by its repeal), are convicted tax evaders to be purged of their criminal records? How many were incarcerated for non-payment of the ‘Poll Tax’?
Perhaps more apposite in the context of Mr Cameron’s proposals, what if the age of consent were subsequently lowered to 14 by Act of Parliament for both heterosexual and homosexual sex?
Doubtless, at some point, it will be ‘harmonised’ across the ‘single legal area’ of the European Union, and it is hardly likely to be standardised upwards. The age of consent varies considerably across Europe: in Spain is just 13; in the Vatican State it is 12 (being Wikipedia, this is perhaps a 'joke' entry, though it would explain one or two things [or is it 3000?]). In Malta, the age of consent is set at 18.
This means there is no EU definition of what constitutes pederasty.
Mr Cameron has specified that he would allow men with convictions for consensual gay sex to have them omitted from their Criminal Records Bureau certificate. The move would only apply to convictions that are no longer illegal – so it would not apply to convictions for sex with somebody aged under 16.
But why not? If the age of consent is so variable - set, it appears, contrary to God and nature at the whim of a national parliament - why should the quashing of convictions (for that is what it amounts to) cease at the arbitrary threshold of 16?
If the age of consent were to be lowered at some point in the future (as it most assuredly will be), why then should those with a conviction for pederasty not also then justly demand the retrospective application of the new law, thus eradicating their criminal record and life-long shame of having to declare that they were convicted of under-age sex?
The Conservatives propose to amend the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in order that people convicted of consensual gay sex with over-16s would not need to disclose this when applying for jobs.
But the age of consensual gay sex has not always been 16. It was, initially, illegal at any age. Then it was 21, then 18, and (under EU anti-discrimination provision), ‘harmonised’ with the age of consensual heterosexual sex at 16.
If the Conservatives seek now to consensualise that which the law said could not be consensual at the time of the act, there is no logical end to the erasing of criminal records.
Rape, by definition, is never consensual. Under-age sex is, by definition, rape, since the victim was not of an age to grant consent. Are we not in danger of retrospectively pardoning rapists?
The bizarre thing is that this is being done to permit these men to obtain clean CRB checks.
Surely, if they were prepared to break the law in order to indulge in what the law then defined as a sexual perversion, we learn something not only of their private morality but of their contempt for the public law.
What it that makes these people suddenly fit to work with children?