Ipswich men who were wrongly charged and jailed for being gay will today receive an apology from the State Government.
Ipswich men who were wrongly charged and jailed for being gay will today receive an apology from the State Government.

Gay apology too late for distraught Ipswich mother

IPSWICH men who were wrongly charged and jailed for being gay will today receive an apology from the State Government.

The historic event will take place at State Parliament this afternoon.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will deliver an apology on behalf of the House as her government introduces legislation to enable historic gay convictions to be expunged.

"Those convictions may have happened decades ago, but they continue to impact on the lives of many today," she told The Courier-Mail.

"I feel it's vitally important that as a Parliament, we recognise the hurt, humiliation and anguish those charges caused.

"We know that, like all forms of institutionalised prejudice, it's not something that reflects modern Queensland values."

For some homosexual Queenslanders and their families, the apology has come too late.

One Ipswich mother collapsed and became hysterical when her son was sentenced to jail for sleeping with another man.

She died before hearing an apology.

The distraught woman had to be carried out of court by police after watching her 22-year-old son being sentenced in May, 1954, for "committing an offence with a male person".

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Her son John*, a former RAAF member, pleaded guilty to sleeping with a 19-year-old Ipswich man in Brisbane Botanical Gardens in December of 1953, newspapers reported at the time.

In 1954, the 19-year-old was placed on a bond after he "admitted that two youths committed disgusting offences on him".

Mr Justice Stanley justified the teen's lack of jail time by his "youth, his broken home, his previous good character and the fact that he was drunk".

One of the jailed men was a 25-year-old Ipswich clerk and the other was Ipswich former RAAF pilot John, who was jailed for a year.

According to the Brisbane Telegraph, the 25-year-old slept with the 19-year-old in November, then with John later that year in December.

For that, he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, only serving 12 months providing he didn't "offend" within the next four years.

The Truth Newspaper. Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library.
The Truth Newspaper. Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library.

Details of his sentence were also published on August 8, 1954, in Brisbane's Truth newspaper, known to publish scandalous events of the time.

John's loving mother used the publication to speak out about the injustice of her 22-year-old son being jailed.

"The unjustness of making my son a jail bird is, I say, unbelievable," she wrote, in a letter to the editor.

"My son is only 22. He has been a good lad.

"He served his country for 12 months in the Air Force in Malaya and was discharged A1 in every instance."

The May 25, 1954, edition of the Brisbane Telegraph, quotes Mr . Justice Townley describing the men as dangerous before reminding the men that a maximum penalty of 14 years with hard labour was provided for their offence.

"There is a danger that any man convicted of an offence of a homosexual nature may corrupt and even attack others. I am not suggesting that you have done so but the danger is there whatever steps you may have taken to eliminate it," he said.

"One of the main purposes in imposing a sentence for a particular offence is to deter not only the individual, but also others that are like-minded from committing a similar breach."

Although this seems a long time ago, these men if alive today would be in their early 80s with offences still attached to their name.

As of this afternoon this will no longer be the case.

WHY THE APOLOGY MATTERS:

PARENTS, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, who have a branch in Ipswich, have praised the Premier for her actions.

"For those who have been in that situation, today is a very big day," national spokesperson Shelley Argent said.

"It's showing that homosexuality is not a crime. It is lifting that stigma that their natural self is not a crime.

"Gay men who've always had this criminal record hanging over their heads who haven't been able to apply for work or travel overseas will be free of that.

"The Palaszczuk Government has done so much for the LGBT people in Queensland. They should be commended for that."

*Name has been changed for legal reasons



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