Exclusive: Majority of public want gay 'conversion therapy' banned, as campaigners fear further delay

A clear majority of the public say so-called gay 'conversion therapy' should be banned, according to a poll shared exclusively with ITV News.

The findings come as campaigners call on the government to announce a ban next week, after two years of delays.

62% of those surveyed by YouGov, on behalf of the Ozanne Foundation, which campaigns to end conversion therapy, said that they support a ban.

Only 14% said they do not, with the rest saying that they do not know. Those with a religious affiliation were only slightly less likely to want a ban, with 57% in favour, versus 15% who are not. 

ITV News understands the Equalities Minister, Liz Truss, is still finalising plans for a ban, which have yet to be signed off by the cabinet.

But Parliament breaks for its summer holiday next Wednesday, so there are concerns that a ban could be delayed beyond then.

This week, ITV News spoke to 'Tom' (not his real name), who spent three years in group therapy sessions, trying to turn himself straight.

He told us: "There's a secrecy around it. You're encouraged not to tell anyone you're part of it.

"They would ask you to talk about how often you have been tempted to think in a 'gay' way.

"There were a lot of questions about family, upbringing and childhood experiences. We were made to feel that we would all achieve what we were looking for, which was to eventually marry a woman and have a family."Instead, Tom says he was left feeling suicidal.

"There were definitely times that I felt I didn't really want to go on. There were times where I felt there was no real hope," he said.

Eventually he quit the group and has now embraced his sexuality.

Tom was first referred for conversion therapy by Mike Davidson, who runs the Core Issues Trust and still practices from his office near Belfast.

When we met Mr Davidson to show him our interview with Tom, he told us: "He was sent to somebody who is registered as a qualified psychiatrist. You cannot ban people's human right to plan the trajectory they want to go in."

Mr Davidson added: "People should be free, and we should give them the right and freedom to go in the direction they they want to."

He continued: "Banning just simply won't work... That's not what democracy is, and that's not what scientific debate is.

"What are they going to do? Are they going to ban conversations between people?"

Over the past two years, ITV News has uncovered the many forms in which so-called 'conversion therapy' still takes place in Britain.

At Winner’s Chapel in Dartford, our undercover reporter was told that his homosexuality was caused by the devil and was offered intensive prayer, while the Christian organisation Journey UK provided textbooks to another of our undercover reporters, saying that homosexuality was a “neurosis”.

Several pastors at the Winners' Chapel made clear they could help stop him being gay. Credit: ITV News secret filming

At the time, the then Prime Minister Theresa May promised ITV News she would ban conversion therapy.

But two years on, the new government is yet to announce its plans.

In June, Liz Truss told MPs: "Conversion therapy is a vile, abhorrent practice that we want to stop. We have commissioned research to look at the scope of the practice in the UK, and we will publish our plans shortly after we receive that research."

Those comments were interpreted as a promise to update the Commons before recess, with only a few days left before MPs go on their summer break.

Other countries, including Germany and Malta, have already outlawed conversion therapy, with the UN last month calling for a global ban.

Now one of the UK government's own LGBT advisors, Jayne Ozanne, who has been through the therapy herself, has told ITV News that patience is running out.

She said: "During those two years how many young lives have been ruined? How many young lives have been lost?

"I consented to go through it because I thought it was the right thing to do. It nearly cost me my life. We need to be absolutely clear that it is wrong, it is torture, let's eradicate it once and for all." 

And having already spent much of his youth agonising over his sexuality, Tom doesn't want any more time to be wasted.

"I have huge regret," he told us.

"Looking back, I don't think I was looking for someone to make me straight. I was just looking for someone to tell me it's okay to be gay."