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back to article UK gov rejects call to posthumously pardon Alan Turing

The UK government has turned down a call to posthumously pardon Alan Turing. A petition to pardon the war-time codebreaker for a 'gross indecency' conviction attracted more than 23,000 signatures, prompting the tabling of early day motion in the House of Commons last week. Turing was arrested and eventually convicted for …

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Anonymous Coward

If he hadn't been found guilty

Then he would not be able to be pardoned.

You have to be found guilty to be pardoned.

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Jad
Stop

"Turing was arrested and eventually convicted for homosexuality in 1952." ...

One would guess from this that he _was_ found guilty ...

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WTF?

@Jad

Methinks you're reading the parent comment wrong.

Lord Sharkey said;

"a pardon is not appropriate because he was found guilty of something that was a criminal offence at the time"

...to which the right honourable commentard above noted that it is only criminal offences that actually require pardons, in the fact that you don't need to be pardoned for something you've never been convicted of.

Which in summary makes Lord Sharkey's statement a little nonsensical.

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We apologised for slavery yet that was probably legal at the time. But I guess slaves weren't convicted, just captured and held against their will.

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Guilty because

"One would guess from this that he _was_ found guilty ..."

Well he did plead guilty which does make the verdict fairly inevitable.

http://drvitelli.typepad.com/providentia/2011/04/the-turing-problem.html

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Pardon

I think the point is that a pardon is only appropriate when new evidence comes to light that strongly suggests that the person was never guilty in the first place. It's not appropriate (or even necessarily a good thing^TM) to give a pardon if the 'offence' has simply been decriminalised subsequently (although you could possibly make the argument for wiping convictions where the 'criminal' is still alive..)

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Really ? In parts of the US it was illegal for men to have sex with other men. It's asexually offense that can lead you on the sexual offenders list .

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Anonymous Coward

"was"? - it still is in many states - as is oral sex ... it's called "An Offense against Nature" ...welcome to The South.

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Anonymous Coward

Definition of Repeal

Does Repeal mean to remove and reverse as if it had never existed?

If so Alan Turing was convicted under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885

Which was Repealed by Section 51 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956.

Which was in turn Repealed by Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1974 (c. 22), Sch. Pt. XI

If this has been Repealed Then A Pardon is surely due to anyone convicted under a law which has been undone.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/4-5/69/section/51

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@haroldo

If new evidence comes to light that sheds doubt on a conviction, then the conviction is quashed. That's not the same as a pardon, where the conviction stands but the punishment is rescinded or the guilty party forgiven for their crime

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Mushroom

Clearly there needs to be a mass pardon

Anyone convicted of homosexuality should receive an appology from the UK government, this particular offense is clearly now viewed by the majority as absurd and unfair. Given more liberal times it would be better if the government admitted that the british establishment had this plain wrong and issued a blanket pardon for these "offences".

Yes it may be a big ask but it's the right thing to do

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Vic
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> Does Repeal mean to remove and reverse as if it had never existed?

No.

Vic.

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Stop

Turning it on its head. Lets extend the sentences for all those who were sentenced before wacky jacqui reclassified cannabis from class c to class b.

An apology costs nothing - but reversing a decision made correctly inline with the law at the time is madness - whether you agree with that law or not.

This looking backward and trying to judge historic decisions in the light of todays morals (which in themselves are only transitory) is laughable and doomed to fail.

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Something similar has already happened.

People have been convicted of selling 18 rated videos to people under that age, and the convictions still stand, despite it not being a criminal offence at the time they were convicted.

I do seem to recall reading on here that people have been convicted of crimes carried out before the actions were criminal but unfortunately I don't recall enough of the details to track a story down.

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Exactly

That said, a posthumous knighthood as recognition of his incredible contributions to computing, maths, pwning Nazi comms and so on might not be a bad thing. If a dead golfer (Henry Cotton) can get knighted, then surely Turing is worthy.

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Rob
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@johnnytruant

Completely agree with your sentiment, the guy was amazing with the work he did, but I think it would be impossible to get him a posthumous knighthood because he is a convicted criminal, the lunacy of it all could make you weep.

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Boffin

It's the perfect solution...

... for a very imperfect situation.

If you pardon him because the law he broke should never have been on the books in the first place, then you have to do the same for everybody else convicted under that same law.

If it was okay to have that law, but you pardon him because of who he was and what he did for the country, you get into that whole question of whether or not there's equal justice under the law for both the common and the elite.

(I think we all know the real-life answer to that one, but we should at least acknowledge that it is not right that it is that way)

But a knighthood says "A grateful nation and sovereign thank you for what you did for the nation".

Of course if there were any real justice he'd have gotten that knighthood back around '46 or '47.

Boffin icon as a salute to the man who should be called Sir Alan.

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If Turing is worthy of a knighthood so surely are Tommy Flowers and William Tutte.

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Vic
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> If you pardon him because the law he broke should never have been

> on the books in the first place, then you have to do the same for

> everybody else convicted under that same law.

No you don't.

A pardon doesn't say that someone should never have been found guilty; it says that someone *was* properly found guilty, but the State has since decided to expunge that guilt, not that it has decided to repeal the law.

It's not an appeal, it's a pardon...

Vic.

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One problem I have with posthumous knighthoods is that it assumes they would have accepted it. Not everyone buys into that aristocratic old bollocks.

The list of people who have refused a knighthood while alive AND who by many accounts were closet homosexuals includes T.E. Lawrence and E.M. Forster.

Boffins who have refused to be knighted include Michael Faraday, Stephen Hawking, and the Nobel prize winner Paul Dirac.

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@johnnytruant -- Right

It's this sort of attitude and petty minded thinking that permeates the establishment throughout the world, Turing is but one example of many.

For instance, that so-called august body, the Nobel committee, is just as bad, for example, not giving Sir Fred Hoyle the Nobel Prize for his work in the B2FH paper, 'Synthesis of Elements in Stars (1957) because Fred was a bit too outspoken for the establishment is an example of this petty-minded hypocrisy at work. Not satisfied, they compound the problem by refusing to deal with posthumous cases, so they look even more ridiculous and behind the times.

Also, you see hundreds of examples in the military where the military establishment has failed to award, say, a well-deserved Victoria Cross etc. because of a 'technicality' or some other bureaucratic bullshit such as 'if we make an exception then the natural order of things won't be maintained'.

No wonder there's so many problems in the world today when we've so many disingenuous shits in charge.

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"wacky jacqui"

You Sir, for reminding me of the ugly, opinionated, uneducated, greedy, grasping, sleazy, expenses fiddling cow, owe me nothing :-)

To everyone else out there, this is what you get when you vote in "career" politicians.

My next lecture will be at the Wigmore Hall..

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Mush! If it ain't on wikipedia it ain't true..

Sadly I've encountered this innumerable times when addressing groups of "yoofs".

Even more sadly, there are a number of El Reg commenter's who ascribe to the same view.

On the plus side, however, there are a small proportion who don't. :-)

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@Vic

I disagree.

1. A pardon says 'We forgive you' (not possible if he was guilty under law at the time).

2. An apology asks for someone else's forgiveness (approriate at any time).

In fact, an apology is more telling in this case because it acknowledges that the whole nation is in his (posthumous) debt because of the despicable way he was treated.

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@KitD

I don't get it.

"Sovereigns" (or what passes for them here in the States...Presidents, Governors, etc.) here on this side of the Pond pardon all manner of nefarious convicted felons, including murderers (ref. Haley Barbour, former Governor of the Great State of Mississippi). This is no way invalidates the laws against murder, nor does it in any way imply that all other murderers (even those convicted of crimes materially identical to those of the pardonees) , must also be pardoned. It is, and always has been, a one-off thing.

Maybe "pardon" means something different in the Brit lexicon.

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Agree but...

surely Turing is still respected, even revered, for his great contributions to Britain, while the current British government, like its predecessors, is seen as cruel and insensitive.

Turing will be remembered long after these humbugs are dust.

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Anonymous Coward

Sir Tommy!

What a great man! So many inventions.

If not for the silly government decisions around secrecy, we might have had Silicon Hill in north west London.

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Simple solution

Posthumously knight him retroactive to 1945 and then posthumously strip him of his knighthood in 1952 to coincide with his criminal conviction. Problem solved.

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Anonymous Coward

@someoneelse

Yes, we Brits are mose small minded!

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Coffee/keyboard

You are a genius

A devious, evil, twisted one perhaps, but a genius nonetheless.

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Big Brother

To be fair, exonerating Turing ignores all the other poor sods who were convicted under the same legislation.

It should be an overall pardon, not just for one man.

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But that doesn't fix things for those who led miserable lives of abstinence because they obeyed the law. It doesn't fix things for anyone who broke any of the other dubious laws of the time, or suffered racism or sexism because the law failed to protect them.

You can't fix the past.

It might be best that it stands as an example of what happens if you base laws around literal interpretation of ancient religious texts, or the personal prejudices and sexual hang-ups of ministers. You get bad laws which destroy innocent peoples' lives.

Will we ever learn?

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Vic
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> exonerating Turing

No-one is talking about exonerating him.

The proposal is for a pardon...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

I bet

the politicos don't go for this because they don't want some future Government exposing _them_ for the useless twats _they_ are. It's a temporal 'you rub my back, I'll rub yours' deal.

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Turing was convicted under a section of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 known as the Labouchere Amendment, which also caught Oscar Wilde. What was outlawed was "gross indecency" between men, but it didn't actually define what gross indecency was so it was open to abuse. Obviously you can't change the past but I think they should pardon everyone who was convicted under this extremely badly written and unjust law.

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WTF?

WTF (in 36 point font please elReg)

Am I the only one to see the complete irony of all this, so let me get this straight, Turing can't be pardoned because what he done was against the law at the time, however Turing helped crack the enigma code and defeat germany in ww2. When german war criminals were brought to trial they offered the defense that they were only obeying the rules/laws of the time to which they were told that that was not a valid defence and they (germans) should have known what they were doing was wrong.

Sorry but I am unable to shout WTF loud enough to express what I consider the most stupid fucking argument that has come from what must be the most fucking stupid twat* the universe has ever seen.

As Albert Einstein said "Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe".

* No no, not you loyal commentards, the faceless Sir Humphrey who made the original decision

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@phuzz -- Hypocrisy isn't it?

Damn hypocrisy everywhere. Here's another:

It's sort of tragic how 'The Establishment' now loves Oscar Wilde. His wit is loved, his plays are adored and his marvelous one-liners are on calendars everywhere, yet to them the concept of a pardon would be anathema.

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Hypocrisy, and fear of being sued

I think the real problem is that there may be people still alive who were "convicted" of offending the moral majorities prejudices, if Turing was pardoned then some of these people may be tempted to sue the grubberment.

Perhaps in another 20 or 30 years time when there is no one left alive who was "convicted" the grubberment will be able to give Turing a pardon.

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FAIL

Pardon?

A pardon is used to forgive a crime for which you have been found guilty, therefore it would be completely appropriate in this case. Excuses really.. ruling classes cannot be wrong.. ever.. even when they are.

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Coward

Its easy to blame the "ruling classes" isnt it than to admit your parents and grandparents as part of a democratic society have an equal responsibility for the electing of a body that passes or refuses to repeal distasteful legislation.

For the futility of judging yesterdays laws by todays standards - see my other comment.

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Anonymous Coward

except

your grandparents might not have had a chance to vote at all before 1945 and if you go back another generation there's a good chance they didn't get the vote until 1918 (since 70% of the population didn't have it before then).

So once everyone's parents and grandparents did get the vote they did repeal the distasteful legislation. OK it took 22 years but people had a lot on their mind just after the war.

Though I have heard it said that the "ruling classes" wanted it gone themselves as it made the gay ones a bit too easy to blackmail which could be very embarrassing.

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Windows

Beg to differ...(Off topic)

"your grandparents might not have had a chance to vote at all before 1945 and if you go back another generation there's a good chance they didn't get the vote until 1918 (since 70% of the population didn't have it before then)."

I have in my posession two Christmas cards. Simple, folded, with a red and gold thread running through the hinge. It simply said "From the Trenches" to George (his brother) and the reply same from Harry.

It was WW1. They're dated 1917.

Harry (my Grandfather) brought me up. In the days when they shot teenage soldiers for cowardice, because they were simply terrified by what was visible carnage before their eyes.

R.F.Delderfield's "To serve them all my days" is a good start.

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Devil

Mind learning history much?

You are missing the point.

Prior to 1945 voting in the UK had a census requirements. If we go back as far as the 19th century less than 30% of the country had the right to vote.

So in fact, during victorian times it was the ruling class and the people who aspired to become the ruling class who had the right to vote. The GP post commentard is right.

<Meldrew Mode>

I cannot believe it. What do they teach kids in history classes nowdays...

</Meldrew Mode>

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Anonymous Coward

@Gordon 10

I get what your saying but it's slightly narrow minded to say that the people of the time should have voted and done something about it, when what it really boils down to is education. If humans are brought up by their elders to believe something is wrong (even though it isn't by today standards), it's engrained into society, it's only by education can you change that view, by teaching humans that actually it's not a bad thing and you should not persicute other humans for it. Unfortunately that education was lacking (read: non-exsistent) in those days.

The law was the law back then and we all agree now it was wrong, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and you can't change the past. But we can change the future and in this particular case I think it should be national recognition of a man who did so much for this country in the war that he helped others who were fighting on our behalf to win the war.

Prehaps the petition was badly aimed by proposing it to the governement, prehaps it should have been sent to The Queen.

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Anonymous Coward

@johnnytruant

Or a posthumous Life Peerage perhaps?

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FAIL

Eh?

"[A] pardon is not appropriate because he was found guilty of something that was a criminal offence at the time."

And what is a "pardon" again, if not the waiving of a sentence for a crime someone was found guilty of?

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A Pardon...

..(in the UK) removes the penalty but does not remove the record of the conviction. You are confusing the conviction and the penalty. It's too late to pardon a man who has served the sentence and died. To remove the criminal conviction, a retrial is required. A pardon can only be given to someone who has been convicted (by definition).

However, sometimes a pardon is given because it's quicker and cheaper than a retrial.

The only use I can think of for a posthumous pardon is to make descendants feel better about their ancestors (as was done in pardoning soldiers convicted of cowardice while actually most probably suffering from shell shock). This didn't stop the execution of those soldiers of course.

It is a fact that Alan Turing broke a law that was in force at the time and so he was treated as people at that time were. I believe his conviction should stand and be worn as a badge of shame by our society. Also, details of his treatment at the hands of the government should be required teaching in schools.

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@frank ly -- Perhaps so, but:

"It is a fact that Alan Turing broke a law that was in force at the time and so he was treated as people at that time were."

In a humane society of today there is absolutely no logical reason why old unjust and cruel laws themselves cannot be deemed to have be unlawful and therefore the enforcement of them also unlawful. Thus, 'offences' under them would also be deemed never to have occurred.

Unfortunately, the English-speaking world has been so in awe of the Law and Rule of Law since at least Magna Carta that only straightjacket thinking about it always seems to apply. Of course, 'The Establishment' loves such straightjacket thinking as it makes ruling the great unwashed masses easier.

Making things easier for the ruling classes doesn't necessarily make them right, ethical or moral.

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Facepalm

It's the symbolism, dude

Yes, the whole point of granting Turing a pardon – or a retrial, or the apology already given – would be symbolic: it would signify the government concedes that the "gross indecency" law was wrong, and this kind of thing should never be attempted again. The fact that it would seldom have any practical consequences at this point is precisely what has people baffled at the government's refusal to yield to Turing's partisans.

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