Queensland’s historical gay conviction expungement scheme will be up and running before the end of June, the Department of Justice has said.
Homosexual sex was decriminalised in Queensland in 1991, but men who were charged for consensual activity under several laws prior to that still hold criminal convictions, affecting their employment and travel.
Last October, the state government passed legislation to establish a process to finally allow such men or their families to apply to have such convictions expunged.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Attorney-General said the department was finalising the administrative scheme’s arrangements and intends it to be “operational by the end of the financial year.”
“The administrative arrangements being finalised include: the development of an approved application form; the development of a supporting website for applicants and their representatives; and the internal processes for criminal record holders in dealing with expunged records appropriately,” the spokesperson said.
“The Department of Justice and Attorney-General is currently finalising these arrangements in consultation with key community stakeholders.”
Under the expungement scheme legislation, a person will be able to apply to the Department of Justice and Attorney General to have records expunged for eligible offences if they were charged or convicted under the law, as it stood, before Queensland decriminalised gay sex.
“The eligible offences that are currently prescribed under the Act are certain male homosexual offences and public morality offences that were in force before 19 January 1991, that is, the date that consensual adult male homosexual activity ceased to be a criminal offence in Queensland,” the spokesperson said.
“Applications will be made to, and decided by, the Director-General (or delegate) of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, on a case-by-case basis.
“If an application for expungement is successful, an eligible person can lawfully choose not to disclose the charge or conviction for the eligible offence.
“Further, public records will be annotated to record the fact that the charge or conviction has been expunged and disclosing information about the expunged charges or convictions will be an offence.
“The process of applying for a conviction or charge to be expunged will be confidential and the Act contains an offence provision for the unauthorised disclosure of confidential information acquired through the administration of the expungement scheme.”
Last October, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the expungement scheme was a “a humble but meaningful measure of restorative justice to those who have suffered as a result” of their historical convictions.
One such Queensland man, Alan Raabe, was charged with aggravated sexual assault after he brushed the groin of an undercover police officer who had lured him into a sting at a Cairns beat in 1988.
“As far as I am aware I’m the only person affected by these laws who has been prepared to speak publicly about this,” he said last year.
“This is possibly an indication of the fear and the shame that still surrounds [the convictions] to this very day.
“To have these crimes expunged will go a huge way towards to dealing with this.”