The Australian state of Tasmania is considering paying those charged with or convicted of various charges under the country’s repressive anti-LGBTQ+ laws of the past that outlawed same-sex sexual relations, crossdressing, and the enabling of such activities. The proposal came in an independent review required by law of the Expungement of Historical Offences Act passed in 2017. The recommendation for compensation was not included in the act itself and must be approved by the government.
“It was a mistake not to include financial compensation in the original expungement legislation, given the trauma, indignity and disadvantage caused by conviction,” Rodney Croome, a spokesman for Equality Tasmania, told the Examiner. “The injustice suffered by those who were convicted demands more than acknowledgement and expungement, it demands recompense.”
The review recommended that a one-time “payment should be made available for those whose records are expunged” as a form of “acknowledgement and redress” for their suffering they endured as a result of the draconian Police Offences Act which outlawed behavior deemed as immoral by some at the time. The act not only outlawed same-sex sexual relations and cross-dressing, it also considered “inciting, instigating, aiding, or abetting” such activities to be a crime as well.
Part of the problem was that many of the accused chose to pay an admission of guilt fine rather than face a public and potentially embarrassing legal fight in court, John Jeffery, deputy justice minister, told the Sunday Independent. The drawback to paying the fine, though, was leaving a permanent mark on the accused’s record, regardless of whether there were guilty.
“We have identified for a while that in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, there is a problem with admission of guilt fines resulting in people having criminal records,” Jeffery said.
The review recommended a two-tiered compensation system, with those convicted of charges receiving a more substantial payment than those merely charged but not convicted. The compensation payments would also be available to surviving spouses or family members of those who were wrongly charged or convicted, but have since passed away.
Croome of Equality Tasmania called for quick action on the proposals because many of those impacted are of advanced age.
“We call on the Government to act quickly on the review's recommendations, given the advanced age of many of the men convicted under our former laws,” he said.