While consensual sex between men aged 16 and over has been legal in New Zealand since 1986, men with historical homosexual convictions can face ongoing stigma and prejudice.
The Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Act 2018 came into force on 10 April 2018.
It sets up a scheme to expunge (wipe) convictions for men for specific offences. To be wiped, the conduct must not be an offence under today’s laws.
This means that men who were convicted of specific offences that have since been decriminalised can apply to be treated as if they had never been convicted.
Who is able to apply?
People are eligible to apply if they were convicted of specific offences relating to consensual sexual activity between males 16 years and over. The offences are:
- section 141 (indecency between males) Crimes Act 1961
- section 142 (sodomy) Crimes Act 1961
- section 146 (keeping place of resort for homosexual acts) Crimes Act 1961
- section 153 (unnatural offence) Crimes Act 1908 but only for offences committed with any other male human being
- section 154 (attempt to commit unnatural offence) Crimes Act 1908 but only for offences attempted to be committed with or against any other male human being
People with historical convictions are able to apply themselves, or someone else (such as a relative) can apply on their behalf if the person has died.
How can I apply?
An application for expungement should be made by filling out the form available from the Ministry of Justice Website.
The scheme is administered by the Ministry of Justice. Applications are assessed and determined by the Secretary for Justice who will need to decide, on the balance of probabilities, that the conduct they were convicted of is no longer illegal – this will generally involve an assessment of whether the activity was consensual and involved adults over the age of 16.
If a person’s conviction is wiped, their conviction will not appear on a criminal history check for any purpose in New Zealand. In situations where they have to disclose criminal convictions (such as on job applications), they’ll be able to declare they had no such conviction.