Historic convictions for sex between men could soon be quashed by the Government.

Justice Minister Amy Adams has asked her officials to find a solution for those who were convicted of now-abolished homosexuality offences, TVNZ reported.

Rather than an automatic pardon, individuals or their families would have to apply to have their convictions erased. Before homosexual law reform in 1986, sex between men was illegal even if it was consensual.

The Government's consideration of the issue comes after Britain agreed in October to pardon thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted under obsolete legislation. It is known as the "Alan Turing law" after the World War 2 code-breaker who was posthumously pardoned for his gross indecency conviction in 2013.


Adams could not be reached for comment. But she has previously said reversing historic convictions would be a hugely complicated exercise.

"A lot of the offences are still offences under today's law around under-age children and the like, so it's not as simple as a blanket approach."

The Ministry of Justice estimates around 879 people were convicted of homosexual acts before legalisation in 1986. Around 80 per cent are believed to have convictions which would still be offences under today's law.

The possible policy change in New Zealand is in response to a petition by gay rights campaigner Wiremu Demchick, who requested a law change which set out a process for reversing convictions for consensual homosexual acts.

Demchick said the fact the Cabinet will consider a pardon was "a very positive step forward", though it did not go as far as he had hoped. He wanted a systematic review of all historic convictions and an official apology from the Government.

The select committee which considered the petition heard from men who said they were still haunted by their convictions.

One submitter, Raymond Sunbeam, said he was arrested in November 1981 while managing an all-male sauna in Wellington and charged with keeping a place of resort for indecent acts between males.

"I had never been arrested before or been in trouble with the police," he said in his written submission.


His conviction and subsequent newspaper coverage hurt his business, staff, and patrons and led to "abuse, bashings and terror" from "anti-gay bigots", he said.

"Besides the trauma, this conviction has affected me personally and financially ever since, hindering my employment prospects and my overseas travel."

The conviction meant he was once denied a liquor licence and was put at a disadvantage when he underwent a background check for voluntary work.

An unnamed submitter spoke of being forced to abandon a promising career with the New Zealand Army because of his conviction.

"This conviction still leads, after 53 years, to self-hatred, worthlessness, unjustified guilt and shame.

"To relieve the anguish and pain, chronic drinking and self-destruction took control over the next 10-15 years, until the realisation that I wasn't a two-headed monster and there were many others like me throughout the world.

"I love my country, but live in fear of being 'found out', of further humiliation, panic attacks when I see a uniformed officer, and a general feeling of being unworthy to be myself, something few others would understand."

If the petition was approved, the submitter said, "it would allow me at this late point in my life to respect myself and feel some dignity in my final years".