​Thousands of gay men to be pardoned under 'Turing's Law'

Sociology Professor Paul Johnson played a pivotal role in new laws which close a "long and shameful" chapter in British history

Our research has shaped 'Turing's Law' which grants pardons for gay people convicted under outdated laws

Research by a law expert in our Department of Sociology has played a key role in landmark legislation which will grant posthumous pardons to predominantly gay and bisexual men convicted of consensual sex with other men.

Professor Paul Johnson drafted a raft of amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill passed by the House of Lords earlier this month. The Bill is progressing through its final stages in Parliament.

The legislation, which grants pardons for historic offences going back as far as 1533 in England and Wales, did not initially extend to Northern Ireland. Professor Johnson drafted amendments to ensure that posthumous pardons will be granted to those convicted of consensual sexual acts in Northern Ireland between 1634 and 2008.

He also drafted amendments that will, for the first time, allow people who were convicted in Northern Ireland, and are still alive, to be pardoned and have their convictions disregarded.

Further contributions to the legislation by Professor Johnson will enable a broader range of convictions, secured under laws that have since been repealed, to be disregarded, and for those convicted to be pardoned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the future.

His work will also ensure posthumous pardons for sailors convicted of same-sex sexual acts as far back as 1661.

Professor Johnson worked closely with Belfast City Councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon, Lords Cashman and Lexden, and Home Office officials to achieve the reforms.


Lord Lexden, who tabled some of the amendments to the Bill in the House of Lords, paid tribute to Professor Johnson's "wide legal knowledge and accomplished drafting skills."

"It is his work…that will now confer on gay people in Northern Ireland the equal rights arising from this major reform which they want and deserve."

Lord Cashman, who also tabled amendments, thanked Professor Johnson who he said had been "invaluable in shaping our approach, and who… has guided me with patience and great wisdom."

Professor Johnson said the new legislative provisions closed a long and shameful chapter in British history.

"These provisions remove any stain from the reputations of the dead, enable the living to have convictions disregarded and, crucially, send a strong condemnatory message to those countries around the world that continue to criminalise same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults."

The legislation has been dubbed 'Turing's Law' after the Bletchley Park codebreaker Alan Turing who committed suicide in 1954 following a conviction of gross indecency with a man. He was granted a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.

Northern Ireland remains the only region in the UK where same sex marriage is not recognised in law.

Earlier in 2016, Professor Johnson’s research prompted a review of laws relating to homosexual men and women in the UK armed forces.

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​These provisions remove any stain from the reputations of the dead and enable the living to have convictions disregarded...​”

Professor Paul Johnson
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Professor Paul Johnson

Professor Johnson has research interests in the relationship between law, human rights, sexual orientation and intimacy

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Explore the work of our Department of Sociology

Read more about the amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill in this article in The Guardian

Find out more about Professor Johnson’s work on the Armed Forces Bill