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16th February 2021

 

MoD announcement that LGBT veterans can apply for forfeited medals – Independent Defence Authority view

 

 

Baroness Goldie DL, a junior Defence Minister, announced today that “Former service personnel will be invited to apply for any medals forfeited due to a historic ban on being homosexual in the military which was not lifted until 2000. In some circumstances, the families of deceased personnel affected will also be able to apply.”

Her MoD announcement went on to say, “This new initiative will also address those who were discharged because of their sexuality and lost the opportunity to regain medals previously forfeited for unrelated reasons.”

The Centre for Military Justice, analysing the policy says it appears to create 3 broad categories of potential applicants:

  • applicants with convictions for old, now decriminalised offences who can produce a ‘certificate of disregard’ under s92 Protection of Freedoms Act 2012
  • now deceased people whose families can make an application on their behalf (but not if they were convicted of an old, now decriminalised offence)
  • people who were not the subject of a conviction under s92 but who were discharged ‘solely on the basis of their sexuality’.

This seems to exclude some and we find this unacceptable.

Baroness Goldies’ statement went on to say, “Work is also underway across the UK Government to examine and understand the wide-ranging impact of pre-2000 practices in the Armed Forces in relation to sexuality. This will ensure that beyond the return of medals, the impact of this historical wrong is acknowledged and appropriately addressed.”

IDA Comment:

This is a clear example of what happens when there is no independent oversight of the defence people area, especially when service law and practices fall out of step with the law of the land.

The statement by Baroness Goldie DL should only be seen as a start in righting a wrong, however it has taken a veteran to take the MoD to court to get any form of action, this in no way can be seen as a MoD instigated initiative. 

We are appalled that the policy as stated doesn’t cover all who fall into this area of injustice as stated by the Centre for Military Justice team. That sentiment is magnified by the MoD not being proactive in returning or issuing medals and letters of apology, to those they wronged.

We urge the MoD in its further work to make a clear statement that its policy was wrong, formally recognise the career and life implications of its actions on its people and those it forced into becoming veterans early. We ask that the MoD considers proactively compensating all who fell foul of a misplaced belief that Defence could act differently to the society it represents and recognise the harm it has done to careers and lives.

We call on the MoD to request an independent investigation into the way LGBT personnel were investigated and for any inappropriate investigation methods and that the MoD urgently embraces truly independent oversight of its personnel practices.

Elaine Chambers, author of the book ‘This Queer Angel,’ said to the IDA,

“It is good and very hopeful that something is finally beginning to come out of a dreadful period in many veterans lives. The fact this is happening 20 years after the lifting of the ban and longer for many impacted by the MoDs actions at the time, beggars the question why is the MoD only starting to understand the impact of its actions now?  I hope this leads to a tangible outcome, able to bring some form of closure rather than just more words.”