Miliband’s proposed law would allow family and friends of deceased men to request historical convictions for “gross indecency” to be overturned, and would be named “Turing’s Law” in memory of computer scientist and cryptanalyst Alan Turing, he said.
The Enigma code-breaker, who was originally convicted of “gross indecency” in 1952 in relation to a relationship with a 19-year old man, was given a posthumous pardon in 2013. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown had issued an official apology four years previously for the way in which Turing had been treated – he had been chemically castrated and forced to give up his valuable code-breaking work.
Homosexuality was finally decriminalised in England in 1967, and in Scotland in 1982.
Turing’s family have led a campaign to secure pardons for all other men convicted under the same indecency laws – estimated to be in the region of 49,000 men, many of whom are actually still alive.
Miliband said: “What was right for Alan Turing’s family should be right for other families as well.
“The next Labour government will extend the right individuals already have to overturn convictions that society now see as grossly unfair to the relatives of those convicted who have passed away.
“I think it’s a stain on our society, frankly.”
The Labour leader did not, however, address the question of how his proposed legislation would apply to those who remain alive, or those who do not have families seeking to quash the convictions.
Prime Minister David Cameron, responding to Miliband’s announcement, said that he “will always continue to look carefully at what more can be done to right these wrongs”.
The coalition government had already passed key legislation in 2012 that allows for those with historical convictions for certain homosexual “offences” to make application to have them removed from their criminal records.