The Home Office introduced the measure in response to concerns that an anomaly in the criminal records system has for decades seen gay men unfairly stigmatised. Work will begin through the Association of Chief Police Officers Criminal Records Office (ACRO) to facilitate amending police records for people who the Home Secretary decides should no longer have a record kept of such historic offences.
When an application is made through the Home Office, ACRO will conduct an initial check of records held on the police national computer to determine if the conviction or caution has been recorded. Home Office case-workers will then use this information to formulate an initial view on whether the conviction should be disregarded.
A dedicated team will then consider each case and make recommendations to the Home Secretary who will have the final decision. If the applicant is successful, the Home Secretary will instruct ACRO to begin the process of removing it from all relevant electronic records held on national police databases.
It means offences will no longer appear on a criminal record certificates or be referred to in any future court proceedings. The move also means people will no longer be unfairly denied or discouraged from applying for jobs or volunteering roles because of the disclosure of a previously held conviction for a consensual act.
ACPO director of information Ian Readhead said:
"ACRO is proud to be a part of this work and dedicated staff will be working with colleagues at the Home Office to amend criminal records which will not only be removed from the police national computer, but also other archives including the court service.
"This is a very important piece of work to end discrimination."
ACRO and the Home Office are also working with other bodies to run the application process for anyone who wants to get the conviction or caution removed from their record.
It is anticipated it will take at least 12 weeks to process applications in many cases.
The change was made under the Protection of Freedoms Act, which received royal assent on May 1, 2012.