According to the Wikipedia page on pardons:

In some jurisdictions, accepting such a pardon implicitly constitutes an admission of guilt (see Burdick v. United States in the United States), so in some cases the offer is refused.

A modern example of this is the UK's January 2017 passage of the "Policing and Crime Act 2017", informally known as the "Alan Turing law", which pardoned men convicted under various laws against homosexuality. George Montague was one man convicted under these laws who said he would not accept the pardon.

"To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything. I was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he told BBC Newsnight.

Montague said that he would accept an apology (which I presume would just be a public admission of the government's regret and would not carry any legal weight), but I'm wondering if there is anything legally stronger than a pardon that would not constitute an admission of guilt?

  • From an English perspective, the term I believe you're looking for is exoneration.
    – VortixDev
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:44
  • @VortixDev It looks like the most common reason for an exoneration is DNA evidence showing that a person was wrongly convicted and another person did the crime. Is it possible to exonerate someone not due to a factual change in the circumstances of their conviction (or that the crime was committed by someone else), but because the original law was abolished and the government would like to make amends? Feb 2, 2017 at 23:47

1 Answer 1



In NSW Australia, the particular terms of art are:

  • a quashed conviction, where the original conviction has been overturned either through appeal or for additional evidence coming to light (Part 4 of the Criminal Records Act)

  • an extinguished conviction, where changes to the law (either through legislation or changes to precedent) have retroactively meant that the act you were convicted for was never an offence. Homosexuality crimes are in fact one area of NSW law where you can apply to have a conviction extinguished (Part4Aof the Criminal Records Act): the application is not automatic as it requires demonstrating that the other person involved consented and was not a minor.

In both cases, in the eyes of the law no offence has ever been proved (i.e. you are innocent).

  • While this is interesting information, I did tag the question with [united-kingdom]. Is there an equivalent in that country? If so, would you be able to add it? (It'd be fine to keep the Australia stuff as supplementary information though). Feb 2, 2017 at 23:59
  • You at least know some words to google UK law with - note Scottish law is different from English/Welsh law.
    – Dale M
    Feb 3, 2017 at 0:06
  • Well, if you'd like me to Google UK law and create my own self-answer I can. I just figured you'd like to include it in your own answer so I could upvote and possibly accept it. Feb 3, 2017 at 0:15

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