Renewed calls for gay crimes payout
Men convicted for having consensual gay sex before New Zealand changed its law in 1986 should be compensated for their ruined lives, a group of MPs was told yesterday.
Three separate submitters to the justice and electoral select committee were making submissions on a bill that will expunge the convictions.
Despite the law change, the men held onto a sex conviction which often saw them denied jobs and other opportunities.
This is the first ‘‘expungement scheme’’ in New Zealand. The bill passed its first reading with the support of all parties before the election.
The Justice Ministry believes there are about 1000 men still alive who were convicted under the old law, though families could also apply to have their relatives’ convictions expunged.
Former Justice Minister Amy Adams specifically ruled out compensation when she introduced the bill earlier this year, and new Justice Minister Andrew Little said yesterday he didn’t think including it in the legislation would be a good idea.
Young Labour’s Alka Ahirao said: ‘‘These laws ruined lives and we need to do more than apologise, we need to give something back to them.’’
Young Labour suggested New Zealand look into a model similar to Germany or Canada, both of which have set aside considerable sums for compensation.
Germany’s compensation came out to around NZ$5200 for all convicts, with additional funding for time spent in prison.
Law graduate Ted Greensmith-West suggested compensation could allow the men who had so much of their lives taken away to enjoy the twilight of their lives.
‘‘It would allow them to use their last few years doing things they never able to do,’’ said Greensmith-West.
Veteran LGBT activist Bill Logan also called for compensation.
‘‘So many people were forced into unnecessarily small lives. The hurt was enormous. The number of lives which were completely wrecked by these laws, which were a reflection of social attitudes at the time. Parliament was a part of that,’’ Logan said.
‘‘We can always find plenty of money to bail out banks when they collapse. But we can’t seem to find money for the actual social debts that we have for being evil to people.’’
‘‘These laws ruined lives and we need to do more than apologise, we need to give something back to them,’’ says Young Labour’s Alka Ahirao.