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The end is in sight for the continued persecution of gay men for some consensual sex acts – learn more about Galop’s role bringing this issue to light.
John Crawford: Photo by Jason Alden, The Independent
More than 50 years ago, in 1959, John Crawford was convicted of two counts of buggery. John was only 19 at the time, on national service in the army, and innocent of the charges. The army conducted a witchunt and arrested John because of his friendship with another gay man. He was repeatedly beaten and humiliated by the military police and then the Met police, before being charged, and receiving a conditional discharge. Click here to hear John discuss his experiences with Eddie Mair on the BBC PM programme.
The law on consensual gay sex has improved incrementally since that time, but although the acts John was convicted of have been legal for many years, his conviction has plagued him ever since.
John seeks help
Finally, in September 2009, like scores of others, John contacted Galop. He told us that he had struggled for years, legally having to declare his conviction on job applications. Since retiring, he has begun working as a volunteer. The conviction has been revealed time and time again on his criminal record checks (CRB). John has been forced to continually revisit and explain a painful and humiliating episode from his past. As a result felt he could no longer work as a volunteer.
Galop steps in
Galop has a long history of helping people to ‘step down’ their previous convictions from their CRB records. This process was always unsatisfactory, as it was discretionary. When we tried to help John we received a disturbing reply suggesting that a recent court decision had led the police to reinterpret the law, and stop ‘stepping down’ offences. Galop decided to work with John to try to challenge this unfair and discriminatory law, and in doing so, argue that this shouldn’t be a discretionary decision by a police officer. Rather, the offences should be deleted entirely from John’s record - and hundreds of others like him. Galop supported John to get excellent legal representation by Anna Mazzola at Hickman and Rose, and she wrote to the Government threatening legal action if they didn’t amend the law. Galop supported John to raise the issue in countless interviews, and his story gained high profile coverage in national and international press and radio.
What was the outcome?
We’re delighted that the Government agreed as part of the coalition agreement to tackle this issue, and has now proposed as part of the Protection of Freedom Bill to introduce a system to delete most convictions for consensual gay sex.
What next for Galop?
Once the Bill passes, Galop will support our clients in making applications, monitor the new system to ensure that it works, and continue to lobby to extend its coverage, to include for example convictions involving entrapment in toilets.
Galop is delighted that Catherine has been invited to be Co-Chair of a new group convened by the Met to work on issues of LGBT sexual abuse.
We’re very proud of our recent publication by Ben ‘Shining the Light: 10 keys to becoming a trans positive organisation’ –it’s full of information, practical suggestions and wise advice, and you can download a copy here.
Peter, Nick and Jamey trained over 20 police officers from Hackney this month – a great success, which we hope will lead to better policing for LGBT people in Hackney.
Our campaign to end the taboo against domestic abuse in women to women relationships is still going strong, visit www.pawsforwomen.org.uk to view our great animation, download group work materials and pledge to support the campaign.
Galop gives advice and support to people who have experienced biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexual violence or domestic abuse. We also support lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people who have had problems with the police or have questions about the criminal justice system.
In addition to working with individual people, we work to improve the criminal justice system for us all, and to find ways to support victims of crime who do not want to go to the police.
We are a completely independent community-led group and we are not connected to the police.
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