While consensual sex between men aged 16 and over has been legal in New Zealand since 1986, men with historical homosexual convictions can face ongoing stigma and prejudice.
The Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Act 2018(external link) came into force on 10 April 2018.
It sets up a scheme to expunge (wipe) convictions for men for specific offences. To be wiped, the conduct must not be an offence under today’s laws.
This means that men who were convicted of specific offences that have since been decriminalised can apply to be treated as if they had never been convicted.
People are eligible to apply if they were convicted of specific offences relating to consensual sexual activity between males 16 years and over. The offences are:
People with historical convictions are able to apply themselves, or someone else (such as a relative) can apply on their behalf if the person has died.
An application for expungement should be made by filling out this form:
It can be sent to the Ministry of Justice by email email@example.com or by post.
The scheme is administered by the Ministry of Justice. Applications are assessed and determined by the Secretary for Justice who will need to decide, on the balance of probabilities, that the conduct they were convicted of is no longer illegal – this will generally involve an assessment of whether the activity was consensual and involved adults over the age of 16.
If a person’s conviction is wiped, their conviction will not appear on a criminal history check for any purpose in New Zealand. In situations where they have to disclose criminal convictions (such as on job applications), they’ll be able to declare they had no such conviction.
It’s key that people supply as much supporting information as they can due to the historical nature of the offences. This guidance has been put together to assist with your application.
An application can be for more than one offence, if they relate to the same individual. You are welcome to use a lawyer, or another person, to help prepare or submit your application, or to deal with the Ministry on your behalf but you don’t have to use a lawyer.
There’s no fee to file the application and there’s no time limit on when it should be submitted. Applications will be treated in confidence and your privacy and that of other parties respected.
You need to let us know if you are applying for yourself or on behalf of someone who has passed away.
If you are applying on behalf of a convicted person who has died, you will need to explain your connection to the person and the reasons why you think you should be permitted to be treated as the person’s representative.
You may need to give us supporting information about why you should represent the person who has passed away, for example a:
It’s important that you provide as much detail as possible about the prosecution and conviction, to enable it to be correctly identified and understood. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the information. You can still send us your application if you can’t remember all the details.
Information such as dates of arrest, dates of charge, the dates of conviction and sentencing as well as the location where this took place can help us to locate the records. Even if you have approximate dates, this will be helpful.
You also need to supply a detailed description of the circumstances of the offence to tell us the story of what happened
You don't need to seek official court or Police records before making an application. The Ministry will obtain those records.
Additional submissions and evidence can also be provided with the application. This is an opportunity to put forward any information that you consider will help prove that the conduct in question is not criminal under the current law or that will help provide a clear understanding of the facts of the matter.
Please supply any extra information that you may have as the amount of detail in the official records might be limited. This might include old court or police documentation that has been kept, personal papers or correspondence, newspaper clippings, or statements from others with personal knowledge of the case.
The information provided does not need to be in a form that would be admissible in court.