Righting the wrong that men suffered for being convicted of consensual gay sex should include financial compensation, following the examples of Germany and Canada, a parliamentary committee has heard.

But Justice Minister Andrew Little is lukewarm on the idea, saying that is not the intent of a bill currently before the justice select committee.

"It's pretty difficult to put something like that in legislation because you have to look at all the individual circumstances.

"I'm interested to see what happens in Germany and Canada, but it would not be part of this legislation. This is about putting right a wrong that was clearly done. People were convicted of something that today we simply would not tolerate."


The justice select committee this morning heard submissions on a bill that would expunge historical convictions for homosexual offences. The bill aims to ease the stigma from being convicted before such acts were decriminalised by the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986.

Submissions today highlighted the pain of discrimination and the important step that the bill represents in addressing that. But they also challenged the lack of compensation in the bill.

"These laws ruined lives and we need more than apologise. We need to give something back to them," Young Labour representative Alka Ahirao told the committee.

Fellow Young Labour representative Teri O'Neill said New Zealand should follow Canada's lead, which put aside $85 million to victims of the "gay purge".

Wellington law graduate Ted Greensmith also told the committee said New Zealand should follow the examples set by Germany and Canada.

"The world over, men who were convicted lost employment opportunities because they were seen as a sexual predator when they were just expressing themselves ... as gay men.

"They suffered huge impacts on their mental health. There is an economic loss that can be tied to these experiences."

In Germany the compensation is 3000 euros ($5149) with an additional 1500 euros ($2574) for every year spent in prison.

Greensmith said the stigma of being gay often lead to feelings of loss, trauma and isolation.

"It's hard to believe that less than 30 years ago I could have been put in prison for being who I am."

He cited the Youth 2012 report saying that LGBT people were five times more likely to attempt suicide.

"We have a mental health crisis and it's felt particularly harshly by LGBT people. Three out of five queer young people have been found to have attempted suicide by the age of 18."

Wellington resident Tony Simpson, who chaired Rainbow Wellington for 10 years but appeared before the committee as a private citizen, said that tolerance was not the same as acceptance.

"Anyone who is gay is aware that dreadful things happened pre-1986 if you admitted you were gay, but that didn't go away magically overnight in 1986."

In his written submission, Simpson told the story of Charles Aberhart, who was convicted of a homosexual act in Nelson in the 1960s and given a six-month prison sentence. He​ moved to Christchurch but was "gay bashed" to death by a group of teenagers.

"The judge instructed the jury to bring a guilty verdict. To his obvious chagrin they did not do so but declared the boys not guilty and the judge was obliged to watch them walk free. As far as the jury was concerned, a dirty queer had got his comeuppance."

The test for expungement in the bill is whether the act would be a criminal offence today, taking into account age and consent.​

Under the bill, convicted men could apply for expungement for free, and a decision made by the Secretary for Justice without a court hearing or a need for them to appear in person.

If successful, 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.

An application can be made on behalf of someone who has a conviction but has since died.

The committee is expected to report back in March next year.