HUMAN rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called yesterday for Prime Minister Theresa May to apologise and pay compensation to men convicted under anti-gay laws.
The director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation said the “psychological and emotional scars” of those convicted before and after the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalised homosexual acts, were long-lasting and they needed an apology and state compensation.
His call comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act tomorrow.
Mr Tatchell said: “Around 100,000 men were convicted of consenting homosexual behaviour following the outlawing in 1885 of all sexual acts between men, with 15,000 of these men being convicted after the  Sexual Offences Act.”
The criminalisation of homosexuality did not come to an end across the whole of Britain until 2013.
Gross indecency and the criminalisation of anal sex were only repealed by the Sexual Offences Act in 2003 and in Scotland, anti-gay legislation was repealed in 2009 — though the ban sodomy was still in effect until 2013.
Military personnel and merchant seamen could still be jailed under anti-gay legislation until 1994. And laws authorising the sacking of seafarers for homosexual acts were only taken off the statute book in April — although they had already been voided by equalities legislation.
Research by Mr Tatchell suggests that remaining antigay laws were pursued more aggressively after 1967.
Men were convicted of soliciting for merely smiling and winking at other men in the street, both before and after 1967, Mr Tatchell found.
Home Office figures show 1,718 convictions and cautions for gross indecency in 1989 at the height of the Tory “family values” campaign and moral panic over HIV/Aids.
Mr Tatchell said: “These men deserve an apology and compensation for the terrible persecution they suffered. Many were jailed and nearly all endured devastating knock-on consequences.
“They often lost their jobs and became near unemployable and semi-destitute because of the stigma associated with having a conviction for a homosexual offence. Some experienced the break-up of their marriages and lost custody and access to their children.
“Families and friends disowned them and they were abused and sometimes assaulted in the street. Many descended into a downward spiral of depression, alcoholism, mental illness and suicide or attempted suicide.
“The psychological and emotional scars were devastating and long lasting. That’s why they need and deserve a prime ministerial apology and state compensation.”