Rupert Everett: Great victory of plans to pardon gay men also very sad

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Rupert Everett has praised the new plans for thousands of deceased gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished crimes to be posthumously pardoned as a "great victory".

But the openly gay actor also said the move is "very sad in another sense" regarding Oscar Wilde, who was convicted in 1895 for gross indecency with men.

Rupert Everett
Rupert Everett (Ian West/PA Wire/PA)

The playwright was imprisoned for two years for his crime - homosexual acts not amounting to buggery, which is no longer considered illegal - and he could be one of those pardoned under the new ruling.

Complexities involving the evidence for Wilde's conviction may lead to him not being eligible for a pardon, however.

Everett said: "I think it's a great victory in one sense and very sad in another sense, obviously that Oscar Wilde himself had to go through such a period of desperation and almost vagrancy really being an outcast."

Rupert Everett
Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde in play The Judas Kiss (Johan Persson/ArenaPal)

He added: "I think it sends a great message out to other parts of the world, where the same kind of things are still happening that happened to Oscar Wilde."

Everett is playing the Importance of Being Earnest writer in his forthcoming self-written and directed film The Happy Prince.

The movie, also starring Colin Firth and Merlin's Colin Morgan, tells the story of the writer's life in exile after he was convicted and jailed before his death.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde (Merlin Holland/University of Rea/PA)

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah announced the new move, dubbed "Turing's Law", this week.

It is named as such in honour of Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing, who received a posthumous royal pardon in 2013 over a conviction in 1952 for gross indecency with a 19-year-old man.

He was chemically castrated and died two years later from cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide.

Calls for wider action emerged after Mr Turing's pardon and Mr Gyimah said the Government would seek to implement the change through an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill.

Colin Firth and Rupert Everett
Colin Firth and Rupert Everett will star in Oscar Wilde movie The Happy Prince (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/PA)

Mr Gyimah said: "It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today.

"Through pardons and the existing disregard process we will meet our manifesto commitment to put right these wrongs."

A Private Member's Bill by Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey was a large factor in securing the pardon for Mr Turing.

Lord Sharkey said: "This is a momentous day for thousands of families up and down the UK who have been campaigning on this issue for decades. I am very grateful for the Government's support and the support of many of my colleagues in Parliament.

"It is a wonderful thing that we have been able to build on the pardon granted to Alan Turing during the coalition by extending it to the thousands of men convicted of sexual offences that existed before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967 and which would not be crimes today."