Justice Minister Amy Adams has introduced the Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill to Parliament.
The bill provides an expungement scheme by enabling an application for expungement of a conviction for an historical homosexual offence to be made to the Secretary for Justice, and to expunge the conviction if the Secretary's decision is that, on the balance of probabilities, the conviction meets the text for expungement.
The test for expungement is that the conduct constituting the offence, if engaged in when the application was made, would not constitute an offence under the laws of New Zealand.
Applications may be made by an eligible person or a representative if they have died. The bill defines an eligible person as the person against whom the conviction for an historical homosexual offence is entered.
An historical homosexual offence is defined in clause 5 of the bill as involving any of the repealed sections 141, 142 and 146 of the Crimes Act 1961 or sections 153 (relating only to committing buggery with another male human being) and 154 (relating to attempting to commit buggery with or indecently assaulting another male human being).
If the eligible person has died, the representative who may apply on their behalf is defined as any of the executor, administrator, or trustee of, acting on behalf of, the estate of the convicted person, a spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner, a parent, sibling, or child, or a person who obtains approval under clause 15 of the bill.
Ms Adams says the bill introduces the first ever expungement scheme in New Zealand. It will allow men convicted of specific homosexual offences decriminalised by the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 to apply to have the convictions wiped from their criminal record.
“Allowing historical convictions for homosexual offences to remain on a person’s criminal record perpetuates the stigma which such convictions carry. A person can be further disadvantaged if they are required to disclose their conviction or it appears on a criminal history check.
“If a person’s conviction is expunged, the conviction will not appear on a criminal history check for any purpose and they will be entitled to declare they had no such conviction when required to under New Zealand law.”