Record clearing supported

TASMANIANS prosecuted for gay sex could have their criminal records wiped clear by the end of this year, after the move won the backing of the state's three political parties.

Labor, the Liberals and Greens yesterday declared in-principle support for legislation to expunge criminal records related to homosexual sex after the Victorian government vowed to do so.

Tasmania was the last state to decriminalise homosexuality and men were still being arrested and fined for having consensual sex with another man up until the mid '80s.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome estimated 20 to 30 of the hundreds of men arrested under the law would still be alive.

Mr Croome has also called for an official apology.

"Expunging records will benefit those men who were arrested, but an official apology will go further by benefiting the far larger group of men who suffered, and still suffer, from the prejudice and stigma criminalisation fostered," Mr Croome said.

Tasmania's anti-discrimination officer Robin Banks has been researching the issue for several months and plans to publish a discussion paper on possible models that could be used to enable people convicted of homosexual crimes to clear their record.

However, Ms Banks said the process would not be easy and each case would need to be assessed to ensure people were not excused of genuine crimes.

Ms Banks said she hoped to put recommendations to the state government mid-year clearing the way for legislation to be passed by the end of the year.

Tasmania's Attorney-General Brian Wightman said he was committed to expunging old homosexuality convictions.

He expected it would require legislative change, which would follow public consultation in the first half of this year.

"It is a complex task, as a range of offences were previously used to prosecute people, including serious sex offences, and the changes to the law occurred relatively recently."

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