Liz Truss vows free speech will be protected in conversion therapy ban

Liz Truss vows free speech will be protected in conversion therapy ban as she extends public consultation period ahead of law change

  • Government announced a proposed new criminal offence in October
  • Said it would protect LGBT people by putting a bar on coercive practices
  • Consultation had been due to end on Friday, with legislation in the spring
  • But it has been extended by eight weeks until February  

A public consultation on introducing a ban for so-called conversion therapies is being extended by eight weeks to allow more people to have a say.

The Government announced a proposed new criminal offence for the statute book in October, saying it would protect LGBT people in England and Wales including children by putting a bar on coercive practices within months.

Women and equalities minister Liz Truss said the Government is ‘absolutely determined’ to introduce a ban but it wants to ‘hear all views on the best ways to do that’.

The original consultation period had been due to end on Friday, with legislation introduced by spring 2022.

Critics of the plans say they should go further, outlawing all conversion therapy.

But equalities minister Mike Freer said the proposals ‘strike the correct balance to stamp out coercive conversion therapy, whilst protecting free speech’.

The Government said consent requirements would be ‘robust and stringent’, and that while some believe an adult cannot consent even when fully aware of potential harms, it believes ‘the freedom for an adult to enter such an arrangement should be protected’.

The Government announced a proposed new criminal offence for the statute book in October, saying it would protect LGBT people in England and Wales including children by putting a bar on coercive practices within months.

The Government announced a proposed new criminal offence for the statute book in October, saying it would protect LGBT people in England and Wales including children by putting a bar on coercive practices within months.

Part of the plans include creating a new offence for talking therapies that seek to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, when committed against under-18s in all circumstances and adults who have not given fully informed consent.

Simply expressing the teachings of a religion will not constitute conversion therapy under the proposals, and it cannot be ‘reasonably understood’ to include casual conversations or private prayer.

Ministers will legislate to ensure that when existing violent offences are motivated by conversion therapy, this is considered as a potential aggravating factor when the perpetrator is sentenced.

Under the proposals, those found guilty of conversion therapy offences would have any profit obtained removed.

There are also plans to introduce civil measures such as Conversion Therapy Protection Orders, which could include removing the passports of potential victims at risk of being taken overseas.

It would also explore ways to prevent the promotion of conversion therapies, including online, and fund a support service for victims and those at risk of conversion therapy.

Speaking after the plans were first announced, shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds said the proposals left ‘the door ajar for people to ”consent” to these insidious practices on religious grounds’, adding Labour would introduce a ‘genuine ban’ if it were in power.

After announcing the extension, Ms Truss said: ‘We are absolutely committed to a ban which will make sure LGBT people can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse, whilst protecting free speech as well as protecting under-18s from being channelled into an irreversible decisions about their future.’

Mr Freer said: ‘The focus for the ban will be on those who actively seek to change someone’s sexuality or transgender status, with protection for young people a particular priority.’ 

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