Turing won't receive posthumous pardon

Alan Turing, widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, won't be receiving a posthumous pardon for his 1952 conviction of "gross indecency," iProgrammer reported on Monday. A petition for his pardon was signed by more than 21,000 people and submitted to the UK government.

Minister of State Lord McNally responded for the government regarding the pardoning of Turing with the following:

The question of granting a posthumous pardon to Mr Turing was considered by the previous Government in 2009.

As a result of the previous campaign, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an unequivocal posthumous apology to Mr Turing on behalf of the Government, describing his treatment as "horrifying" and "utterly unfair". Mr Brown said the country owed him a huge debt. This apology was also shown at the end of the Channel 4 documentary celebrating Mr Turing's life and achievements which was broadcast on 21 November 2011.

A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted.

It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd-particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on behalf of the British government, had made an official public apology on September 10, 2009 for Turing's treatment following World War II. This apology was the result of a previous petition, which was organized by computer security expert and author John Graham-Cumming. Graham-Cumming, however, disagreed with the more recent petition for a pardon for Alan Turing.

Though Turing's contributions to Britain's wartime codebreaking efforts and modern computing were significant, he was convicted of "gross indecency" in 1952 for his homosexuality, which was illegal in the United Kingdom at the time. Following his conviction, Turing accepted chemical castration in lieu of prison, and his security clearance was withdrawn. As a result, he was unable to continue his work for GCHQ, one of Britain's intelligence agencies. Turing died two years later, just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday, in what was determined to be a suicide.

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Simon- said,
Disgusting on behalf of the British Government. I guess that convictions for being a witch should also be upheld because it was illegal at the time according to the laws that define it.

As far as I'm aware no convicted witch has ever received a pardon. To my understanding those who receive pardons are typically those who committed crimes just before the law changed, and is generally those who were involved in making that law change.

If we pardon one person for one ludicrous historic crime we have to pardon all people for all ludicrous historic crimes. If we went back and pardoned all those crimes that now seem nonsensical we'd need a whole new government department to cope with it... but I'm not really sure what it would achieve? After all, we all now know that they were ludicrous anyway.

Intrinsica said,

He's right to an extent. While Turing may not have chosen to be gay, he chose to be openly gay at a time where it was against the law. Trying to fit his psychopath example in to it (although really, saltysaltybk, could you not have picked something less controversial?), you could say that there are some people that have murderous thoughts but do not act on them, and others that have murderous thoughts and then kill even though they know it is against the law.

I disagree with the law as it was, and most of me believes that he should be pardoned, but a smaller part of me sees the logic in the Government's decision.

I know to an extent he is right I did agree with the point he made at the end but I just think he could of chosen is words a bit more carefully?

SPEhosting said,

I know to an extent he is right I did agree with the point he made at the end but I just think he could of chosen is words a bit more carefully?

Not particularly. If you don't like the analogy, skip over it and get to the next post.

saltysaltybk said,

Not particularly. If you don't like the analogy, skip over it and get to the next post.

seriously? are you a homophobe? serious question

SPEhosting said,
are you a homophobe?

I honestly don't know where you're getting that idea from. Just because he chooses to stand by his analogy you are choosing to consider him a homophobe? As someone mentioned above, you know what he meant with his original comments and you're choosing to get flustered by it.
I'd just leave it. After all, how does someone's opinion on a forum affect you?

Intrinsica said,

I honestly don't know where you're getting that idea from. Just because he chooses to stand by his analogy you are choosing to consider him a homophobe? As someone mentioned above, you know what he meant with his original comments and you're choosing to get flustered by it.
I'd just leave it. After all, how does someone's opinion on a forum affect you?

no fine if he wants to stand by it but if he didnt intentionally mean for it to be insulting he could of stated surly? just the manor in which he replied suggests that my assumptions were true and it was a dig at the homosexual community I didnt think straight away it was a dig but simply a poor choosing of words...

I am not complaining about his opinion, I think everyone is entitled to one... but yea not bothered by it as much as my post may suggest, just simply trying to see if he is purposely trying to be offensive or not.

SPEhosting said,

seriously? are you a homophobe? serious question

What an utterly bizarre thing to say. I make an analogy of not having a choice and thus being compelled to act; and you ask whether I'm a homophobic? Don't you think that's more than a little strange?

saltysaltybk said,

What an utterly bizarre thing to say. I make an analogy of not having a choice and thus being compelled to act; and you ask whether I'm a homophobic? Don't you think that's more than a little strange?

sorry if i seem insulting... read previous post /\ i accept what you were getting at I was just wondering if you were pusposly being insensitive or an accident ... I explained above why I asked that question.

SPEhosting said,

sorry if i seem insulting... read previous post /\ i accept what you were getting at I was just wondering if you were pusposly being insensitive or an accident ... I explained above why I asked that question.

I have a great deal of respect for anyone who helps in a war effort- regardless of their sexuality.

saltysaltybk said,

I have a great deal of respect for anyone who helps in a war effort- regardless of their sexuality.


He was likely hoping he would be able to effect change. I'm sure he was not flaunting this just for the sake of it. Additionally, what homophobic people consider "flaunting" is rather PG when applied to straight couples...

I agree, overturning the conviction is not justice, however its examples like this that serve to drive our modern public conscience. The effort that was placed into forming the petition would have been better spent finding other unjust laws and trying to get them removed.

There are COUNTLESS laws in the U.S. in varying states that are considering outright ridiculous by modern standards but are still on the books. Sodomy is still against the law in most states which could lead to a sex crime registry and hinder employment and carries a major social stigma. If you run into the right kind of bigot here....

This is the sort of argument you have to handle carefully or it'll get away from you. I generally agree that, even if a law is overturned, people who broke it at the time shouldn't necessarily be freed from prison since they did, still, willingly break the law and do something they knew was illegal at the time. The standard example of this is legalizing certain drugs not changing the fact that people who were arrested for drug possession still broke the law in acquiring them (no matter how you feel about pot, you aren't exactly going through righteous channels to purchase it in most of the US).

ALL of that aside. The logic that a pardon wouldn't be appropriate because he knowingly broke the law at the time is weak on two counts:

1) Pardons are FOR crimes. You don't pardon someone for not breaking the law. Pardons come into play when someone is guilty of something and you want to basically let them off the hook. To say that being a criminal means you can't be pardoned makes you look daft.

2) A homosexual engaging in homosexuality isn't willfully breaking the law. It's being yourself. You can't criminalize asthma and then shrug 50 years down the road and say they should've known better before using an inhaler.

I don't know. I just don't find the guy's argument compelling by any stretch of my imagination. While a pardon for Turing wouldn't fix anything, it's good for the record, a nice sentiment, and despite what this guy thinks, there's nothing illogical about it.

Joshie said,
This is the sort of argument you have to handle carefully or it'll get away from you. I generally agree that, even if a law is overturned, people who broke it at the time shouldn't necessarily be freed from prison since they did, still, willingly break the law and do something they knew was illegal at the time. The standard example of this is legalizing certain drugs not changing the fact that people who were arrested for drug possession still broke the law in acquiring them (no matter how you feel about pot, you aren't exactly going through righteous channels to purchase it in most of the US).

ALL of that aside. The logic that a pardon wouldn't be appropriate because he knowingly broke the law at the time is weak on two counts:

1) Pardons are FOR crimes. You don't pardon someone for not breaking the law. Pardons come into play when someone is guilty of something and you want to basically let them off the hook. To say that being a criminal means you can't be pardoned makes you look daft.

2) A homosexual engaging in homosexuality isn't willfully breaking the law. It's being yourself. You can't criminalize asthma and then shrug 50 years down the road and say they should've known better before using an inhaler.

I don't know. I just don't find the guy's argument compelling by any stretch of my imagination. While a pardon for Turing wouldn't fix anything, it's good for the record, a nice sentiment, and despite what this guy thinks, there's nothing illogical about it.


The brits use post humour pardons to right wrongful convictions. I.e. if new evidence turns up. He was convicted correctly, even if the law was "wrong".

Regarding 2. He was charged when he told police that he had his male friend over in his bed. He could easily have suppressed the information, but he chose to out it. It was rather like the US Armies "Don't ask don't tell" policy, but he told.

The other thing to consider is that there were thousands of such convictions, is it fair to pardon him and not others? I think the Brits hit it on the head with this one.

The position of the British Government is entirely acceptable.

Turing was treated incredibly poorly. He helped to save the British by his enormous contributions to Bletchley Park's cipher breaking efforts and he was ostracised in spite of this.

That is beyond reprehensible and an apology was indeed due. He did, however commit a crime at the time, and was convicted of it.

"..rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times."

They cannot fix the mistakes of the generation. To try and do so would be another mistake in and of itself.

The pardon isn't for the person who is dead; it is a gesture of goodwill for the people who are alive.

A refusal to pardon is nothing more than a demonstration of solidarity among the elites, a reaffirmation that while the law has changed, they have not.

Unwonted said,
The pardon isn't for the person who is dead; it is a gesture of goodwill for the people who are alive.

A refusal to pardon is nothing more than a demonstration of solidarity among the elites, a reaffirmation that while the law has changed, they have not.

If the pardon is issued, then the matter will be forgotten. If, however, the pardon is NOT issued, the matter will continue to exist and serve to remind people of this shameful episode; thus helping to ensure it never happens again.

An apology for it has already been issued, the government admits that what happened to Turing was wrong. Admitting that is a far more important thing than "forgiving" what really WAS a crime at the time.

poor man, I cant stand people that think homosexuality is wrong (naturally yes its wrong on some levels but not all ##9[speaking as a scientist]... but in the world we live in today its not)

Forget the complete war-saving effort that he made over that.... oh yeah that sounds like a steriotypic bunch of people allright...
Thats a shame, although the message they send out isnt any better to be honest....
"We are a changed government however we support our previous governments decision because we were not around then and we dont want to make our party feel insecure about us as leaders".
That sounds right doesnt it..?!!?

I think this is utterly disgraceful. I don't think people realise just how great a man Alan Turing was - he cracked the enigma (essentially dealing a massive blow to the Germans in WWII), he created what's widely recognised as one of the first real computers, even though it was kept hidden from the public for years and he came up with the Turing Test - something that still very much applies to Computing today.

Yet he was convicted of a crime that we all agree today is perfectly natural and the best his memory will get is an "Oh sorry about that, but you're still a criminal". I dare say if he flaunted his homosexuality during the height of the war, it would have been a difference case.

The man deserves a lot more than a pardon and they won't even give him that. He's one of the greatest people of the 20th century, yet officially he's a Criminal - what a disgrace.

Kushan said,
I think this is utterly disgraceful. I don't think people realise just how great a man Alan Turing was - he cracked the enigma (essentially dealing a massive blow to the Germans in WWII), he created what's widely recognised as one of the first real computers, even though it was kept hidden from the public for years and he came up with the Turing Test - something that still very much applies to Computing today.

Yet he was convicted of a crime that we all agree today is perfectly natural and the best his memory will get is an "Oh sorry about that, but you're still a criminal". I dare say if he flaunted his homosexuality during the height of the war, it would have been a difference case.

The man deserves a lot more than a pardon and they won't even give him that. He's one of the greatest people of the 20th century, yet officially he's a Criminal - what a disgrace.

its a shame a lot of the above posters dont agree with that.
time to get an online pertition started and show the UK government they should
pardon Alan Turing.

Kushan said,
I think this is utterly disgraceful. I don't think people realise just how great a man Alan Turing was - he cracked the enigma (essentially dealing a massive blow to the Germans in WWII), he created what's widely recognised as one of the first real computers, even though it was kept hidden from the public for years and he came up with the Turing Test - something that still very much applies to Computing today.

Yet he was convicted of a crime that we all agree today is perfectly natural and the best his memory will get is an "Oh sorry about that, but you're still a criminal". I dare say if he flaunted his homosexuality during the height of the war, it would have been a difference case.

The man deserves a lot more than a pardon and they won't even give him that. He's one of the greatest people of the 20th century, yet officially he's a Criminal - what a disgrace.

Couldnt agree more!!

If someone of their own back, time and money draws up a complete list of all those who have been convicted of historic crimes that are now wrong, then I will happily support it as a whole.

But...

Until then pardoning one is just a disgrace to all the others, and serves no real point.

lt8480 said,
If someone of their own back, time and money draws up a complete list of all those who have been convicted of historic crimes that are now wrong, then I will happily support it as a whole.

Yup, that seems likely to be a real problem, and it's fair enough.

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