Feeds

back to article Stephen Hawking pushes for posthumous pardon for Alan Turing

Peers and scientists including Professor Stephen Hawking are once again pushing for an official pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing. Turing's death from cyanide poisoning in 1954 was ruled a suicide, coming after his conviction for gross indecency at a time when homosexuality was illegal. Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey has already …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Anonymous Coward

But anyone else who was convicted of homosexuality back then but has no part in the computing world or in saving us in WW2 has to lump it?

38
0
Anonymous Coward

Good point!

But it's a start :)

3
0
Silver badge

Very good point, would it not be better to mass pardon everyone convicted under that 'law'. It's one thing not to revisit a conviction over say the reclassification of a drug, but for a law as inherrantly flawed as this theres no doubt that all convictions should be removed entirely as erroneous not just pardoned (which suggests it was wrong but we forgive you).

15
0

No, they should all be pardonned!

As some other mentioned... if we are talking about a reclassification of the law or some adjustment here and there then no... but this was a ridiculous law that should have never been passed... like burning witches... the government should own up and show some courage... it's not like they are asking for reparations, just a clean name

7
1
Silver badge
Stop

Actually no

There was something about this in the news the other day. It is now possible for a gay man convicted before the 1967 change in law to request that the conviction be quashed.

See http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=20770

0
0
Silver badge

Turing

There are many people in the queue for a pardon before Turing, for a range of real offences where justice has miscarried. More attention should be paid to those urgent and deserving cases, though they are perhaps less attractive because the proponents aren't famous.

Hawking et al are well meaning, but they are going to ensure that Turing is remembered mainly for being homosexual and (probably) comitting suicide. Many people fall into those categories and it's not what makes Turing extraordinary.. We rememeber him as a genuinly great man who used his unrelenting and obsessive genius to protect us all. Where would we be without him ? It doesn't bear thinking about. Brilliant runner too, close to Olympic standard. http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/scrapbook/run.html . That's good going.

9
0
Silver badge

Re: Actually no

This is what drives me nuts. That is an outright admission the law was wrong and the convictions were unsound so why not automatically quash them all? This was a law that was removed because it was fundamentally flawed, it should simply never have been a law therefore any convictions are outright bubbles. The government really are a bunch of complete and utter chumps. You can bet if someone changed the laws about expensive claim fraud they would all be automatically exonnerated with compensation paid.

Yes things like this will not magically change global warming\cooling or fix the economy, but neither SHOULD this take more than 5 minutes of the governments time. Seriously, this is not a huge complex problem. The law was unjust, the convictions need quashing, all in favour snore loudly, passed, home sec please have the plod follow up. Done with time to spare for a quick duck pond claim before lunch. Why should we do it? Because we put ourselves forward as paragons of a socially advanced, tolerant society, we lecture other states on how to treat people, whilst drawing out a situation that should never have been allowed to exist and should take no more than 5 minutes of our supreme leaders time to fix.

9
0
Bronze badge
Stop

Re: No, they should *not* be pardonned!

Then lets waste our time and energy arranging posthumous pardons for all witches. And those who didn't eat pancakes on pancake Tuesday. And those who didn't say grace before meals. And... every other damn rule, law or edict we now consider to be dumb.

As a programmer, and as a human being, I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Turing. However, he is dead. We should turn our efforts towards the living. While the dauntless Lords are discussing the pros and cons of pardoning a dead guy, there are people who are homeless. There are people who don't have enough to eat. There are people dying of easily curable diseases. Get those things sorted out then come back to me with the notion of spending time and energy on doing things for people who couldn't possibly benefit from anything we might or might not do, regardless of how well intentioned.

5
1
Silver badge

Re: No, they should *not* be pardonned!

If it takes more than a few minutes to do something this simple how do you think we stand a chance with anything else you mention?

Curing diseases is more the remit of science than the home office. Type 2 diabetes now has an effective (zero drug use, zero side effect!) cure, Aids is well on the way to a vaccine and treatment and a cure is on the horizon. We just made a huge breakthrough on cancer treatment and whilst more could be done we are finally making huge ground against major diseases. It's sad these huge discoveries aren't getting the recognition that x factor does but such is the state of society.

However I do share the sentiment that a lot more could be done, if anything we should be pushing for more to be done by everyone including the elected mouth breathers.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: No, they should *not* be pardonned!

Given they already spent time repealing the law and writing another law to allow people convicted to request (how generous of them!) to have their conviction quashed, perhaps they should consider it punishment for being useless that they have to go back and fix their mess.

They should fix this and other messes by passing a more wide reaching law that allows for the automatic quashing of convictions under repealed laws except in cases where it is just an update of terminology.

0
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

@Rampant Spaniel RE: "This is what drives me nuts................

..........That is an outright admission the law was wrong and the convictions were unsound so why not automatically quash them all?"

I am very much afraid that there is as usual dirty politics involved. The current leadership of the Tory party are very worried by the gains being made by UKIP. That party has a very homophobic political line and is making all the running in that area. In addition the current Conservative parliamentary party also has a strong anti-gay lobby and they are also coming under considerable pressure from a powerful and very reactionary lobby within their own Tory constituency parties. It is highly unlikely that the present government under Cameron would engage in a mass expunging of these convictions against gay males pre-1967 because their own backwoodsmen within and without parliament would go apeshit and the Tories would leak even more votes to UKIP.

3
0
Silver badge

No, Turing should NOT be pardoned

"Pardoned" means that Turing DID actually commit the "crime" he was charged with and found guilty of, and is being shown some sort of mercy as a reward for his war effort.

This will NOT do justice.

What is needed is a complete and official RETRACTION of any "guilty" verdicts and any sentences imposed, an acknowledgement that the law was completely and utterly wrong and that ANYONE convicted (not just Turing) was wrongly persecuted by the government of the time. Materially, it should be like those verdicts and sentences never existed. A pardon does not overturn the verdict, only the sentence.

1
0
CJM

Re: No, Turing should NOT be pardoned

Indeed. I'm with Stephen Fry (amongst many other)....

A Pardon suggest the state is forgiving them for their crimes. I suggest we have two better alternatives:

- Do not pardon and do not retract or expunge the convictions - they were a sign of the times, no matter how abhorrent; we can't expunge every conviction for every dated or ill-conceived law - and Lord knows, we've had many.

- If we must take action, at least expunge these convictions from the records of all individuals convicted. Don't selectively excuse them for their 'crimes' - have the balls to acknowledge the law was wrong and therefore the convictions were 'unsafe'.

Personally, I prefer the first option, with the caveat that we continue to highlight the perversity of the law rather than the convicted for future reference...

1
0
Anonymous Coward

You seem to be forgetting that there is an unfortunately large minority that still believe homosexuality is not just wrong but punishable by eternal damnation.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Hear, hear!

I can only applaud people putting pressure on the government for a pardon in this prominent case. Maybe the less prominent cases will get some attention after the first battle is won.

4
0

Re: Hear, hear!

Although one wonders why the pressure is required at all?

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Hear, hear!

That will get this country out of the sh*thole it's in, let the full cast of monkeys and clowns discuss it at length!

Please, a fulsome abject apology from Dave about something he had nothing to do with nor benefited from, instead of apologies for present and ongoing harm he's actually decided to inflict.

Any further plans to help things going? A tax on seagulls, maybe? An inquest in midge bites 1973-1985 in the southwestern highlands?

6
8
Joke

Re: Hear, hear!

'73-85 you say? I still haven't forgiven those little bastards, even if everyone else has!

9
0
Facepalm

Re: Hear, hear!

@AC 13:57

Well, perhaps helping to remove the stigma of a discriminatory and stupid conviction that drove one of the greatest figures in computer science, who was a pivotal figure in helping the Allies secure victory in WWII, might help to show that the UK genuinely holds computer science and technology in high regard.

I agree that everyone else with such a conviction should have it struck from their record as well, but it's a stupid and backwards disgrace that a national hero in terms of both his efforts in WWII and his contribution to computing is still remembered at least partly as "that guy who committed suicide after being sent down for being gay".

Or are you going to try and claim that this is the one irrelevant notion being discussed by the otherwise furiously efficient UK.gov?

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: Hear, hear!

still remembered at least partly as "that guy who committed suicide after being sent down for being gay".

I don't think that being pardoned will change that, except for:

"that guy who committed suicide after being sent down for being gay and was pardoned some 58 years after his death"

0
0

Re: Hear, hear!

@AceRimmer

True. But frankly, his life and untimely death was recent enough that I dislike the idea of saying "Well, different times, innit? Who are we to judge?" It was stupid and backwards legislation and thankfully we're slowly moving away from that stance as a culture, and acknowledging that stupid and backwards legislation drove a national hero to kill himself when instead he should've been hailed as one of the greatest Britons in history could, if nothing else, help to underscore that social movement.

I don't wish to whitewash the past - but eliminating a bullshit conviction from someone's record hardly whitewashes the culture of the time; if anything it passes harsh judgement on it by specifically stating that the conviction was based on crap judgement derived from crap laws. "It shouldn't have been a crime and he should've been treated like the hero and genius he was, not like a deviant or a criminal that small-minded morons perceived him to be" is an adequate contemporary statement to make and entirely in keeping with the movement to remove similar convictions from the records of those whose lives are still being affected by it today.

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: Hear, hear!...I don't wish to whitewash the past

Sometimes the sins of the past need to see the light of day, in order for society to recognize its mistakes.

Two cases in point:

1) The imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry at the beginning of WW2. It took a long time for the US government to accept accountability for its actions, and pay reparations.

BTW, I wonder what the judgment of history will be in 75 years, when the people responsible for the infringement on civil liberties of US citizens as a result of the post 9/11, will be long gone, and the truth will finally come out???

2) The ongoing attempt to get some answers from a reluctant state government over the treatment of adolescents over a period of time extending to the early days of the 20th century:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/arthur-g-dozier-school-graves_n_2276727.html

It sees that the state """investigation""" didn't find much, probably because they were told not to look too hard. You have to wonder what doesn't the state want to see uncovered? Will the previously high held reputations of some former politicians and bureaucrats become sullied? Enquiring minds want to know.

2
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Down

@Captain Underpants - Re: Hear, hear!

Wrote :- "it's a stupid and backwards disgrace that a national hero ... is still remembered at least partly as "that guy who committed suicide after being sent down for being gay".

Actually, it is fuss like this that ensures he is remembered that way, whether or not he is pardoned.

I knew of Turing for some while for his technical achievements before I became aware of his personal problems. It is, unfortunately, campaigns like this that make the wider public think of Turing more as a famous gay than a famous scientist.

0
0

Parliaments north and south

seem perfectly capable of churning out pick, tick and flick legislation at a rate of knots.

A Bill to Retrospectively and Without Prejudice Pardon Persons and Entities Extant or Deceased Convicted of Offences under Laws Since Repealed

would take no time, cost nothing, add little more than a few foot-notes to history, give enormous relief to family and admirers of those so convicted and at least mollify the consciences of us all.

IANAL but no ?

1
0

For Pardon also read

Apologise to, Uncharge, Deconvict, whatever OK ? History needn't change.

0
0
Stop

Why stop at Turing?

Why not pardon those executed for witchcraft, the Tolpuddle martyrs or the victims of the Bloody Assizes?

Turing is one of my heroes but he was convicted under the law at the time however reprehensible we find that today. Let that conviction stand as a reminder of an age where we understood what makes us human a little less than we do today.

38
5
Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: Why stop at Turing?

These are the sort of laws that arise when morals are based on tutting, handwringing and looking down the nose at society's 'undesirables'.

5
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Why stop at Turing?

I'm glad we live in an age where that doesn't happen any more then!

Wait... shit.

4
0

Re: Why stop at Turing?

What I don't understand about this sort of thing is, who are we doing it for? I think that most of us accept that what was done to Turing was wrong, so we're not going to learn anything new with a pardon and Turing is dead, so he's not going to benefit. All I can see is that there might be people who would look at Turing and say "he was persecuted, convicted of a crime that shouldn't have been a crime, but then he was pardoned", as if that makes it all better.

3
0
Silver badge

@Steve Crook

I can't help but feel this is another example where the well-meaning are unknowingly corrupted by those they oppose. Pardoning Turning would mean in future, people learning about him would not learn what a nasty, homophobic and hypocritical society we were back then, and (more importantly) how we still are.

7
0
Thumb Up

Re: @Steve Crook

I absolutely agree with JimmyPage - it smacks of airbrushing the less comfortable aspects of our history.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: @Steve Crook

Or as an example of how Governments prefer inertia until enough people get peed off.

He didn't just 'die'. he took his own life because of the laws - laws that it seems many would like to reintroduce either to keep such degenerates off the street or lock them up again in nuthouses and feed them on ECT and dodgy drugs to 'cure' them. Too many still around who consider him not to be one of our most brilliant minds but mainly some educated poofter who got what he deserved .

(that he was causing a lot of problems for their 'hero' * may also have something to do with it.)

* Godwin's Law applies

2
1
Silver badge

Re: @Steve Crook

Something of the opposite I think. My school text book didn't say how/why he died. Even having read about the work he did with early computers and code breaking I didn't know anything but the date of his death.

It was not until the pardon came up a few years ago that I learned what had happened and wondered what he might have done if he had lived longer.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Why stop at Turing?

We already did for WWI shell shock victims who were shot for cowardice.

Of course WWI veterans are politically doubly-plus-good and have a 5* Daily Mail Approval Rating

0
0
Silver badge

Re: @Steve Crook

>He didn't just 'die'. he took his own life because of the laws

Not necessarily - he killed himself more than a year after the end of the sentence and after a couple of holidays to men-only resorts in Scandanavia.

His personal writings as documented in Hodges' book suggests he was depressed about his work and the lack of progress in the Manchester group and in UK computer research. Being gay in those times certainly didn't help but to say it was the only reason is pushing it a bit.

1
0

Re: @Steve Crook

The BBC reported something similar in the Summer, Http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18561092

Their take is that Turing was careless and that the investigation was half-hearted, possibly due to homophobia.

0
0
Joke

Nichomach: "it smacks of airbrushing the less comfortable aspects of our history.

Stop giving them ideas!

0
0
Bronze badge
FAIL

I've said it before and I'll say it again....

....you can't pardon people for crimes if they actually committed them.

Regardless of how silly the law may of been at the time, a crime was still committed.

The same logic would apply if euthanasia was legalized, you wouldn't then pardon anyone previously convicted of killing some under those circumstances.

If a speed limit is increased from 30 to 40, you don't revoke the tickets given to those who were caught doing 40 there previously.

Turing was a great man, and I have no problem with whatever his sexual orientation may have been, but it would be illogical and illegal to pardon him.

16
8
Silver badge

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

That's not true many people have been pardoned for crimes they have committed. That's why is called a pardon and not a miscarriage of justice or being declared innocent.

8
4
Bronze badge

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

I can't recall any? Feel free to provide examples.

As far as I'm aware most people who are pardoned are either generally thought to be innocent but it can't be proved.

Or are guilty of things like espionage or treason, but are pardoned essentially because the offended party (the state) chooses not to press charges.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

What utter bollox! Tho, I expect it!

0
4

"I've said it before and I'll say it again.... "

Anyone else's heart sink when they read that opening?

Anyway.

You can pardon someone for a crime they have committed, there's nothing inherently illogical in that even if it is not what is done in the UK.

Pardons generally do not remove the conviction but (can) express official forgiveness for committing the crime.

"You committed a crime only because our laws were wrong" is an appropriate expression of the sentiment here.

In some systems a free pardon means that the pardoned party is considered never to have committed a crime at all.

I'm not suggesting that we in the UK are not best served by the thinking expressed by Lord McNally but there's nothing absolute about the matter.

4
0
Bronze badge

Fair point, I concede that logically speaking he could be pardoned.

However I still maintain he shouldn't be unless we're going to make it a policy to start pardoning anyone and everyone who committed a crime that is no longer illegal.

0
3
Silver badge

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

look up anyone who was pardoned - it only happens to people convicted of a crime.

If you're innocent you're innocent - you don’t have to be proved innocent you have to be proved guilty!

"It is the standard policy of the Government to only grant pardons to those who are considered "morally" innocent of the offence, as opposed to those who may have been wrongly convicted by a misapplication of the law"

So you have to have committed the crime to be pardoned - as for examples try google...

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

I can't recall any? Feel free to provide examples.

Ahem:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/aug/16/military.immigrationpolicy

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

@Phil W (and D Cameron):

Fail.

He was convicted for the "crime" of being homosexual. As being gay should never have been a crime, he should be officially not guilty of the "crime" of being homosexual. We are not pardoning for him being gay (the fact), but for the mistake of considering this a criminal action. If neither you, nor our glorious leader can understand this, then I feel sorry (and embarrassed) for you. It says little for the intellectual prowess of the powers that be that they cannot think beyond the end of their noses.

2
0
FAIL

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

@ Phil W on illogic of pardons.

No. From the Wikipedia page on pardons, section on UK pardons:

"Today the Sovereign only grants pardons upon the advice of his ministers: currently they are the Secretary of State for Justice, for England and Wales, the First Minister of Scotland, or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State for Defence is responsible for military cases. It is the standard policy of the Government to only grant pardons to those who are considered "morally" innocent of the offence, as opposed to those who may have been wrongly convicted by a misapplication of the law. Pardons are generally no longer issued prior to a conviction, but only after the conviction. The use of the Royal prerogative of mercy is now a rare occurrence, given that the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission are now avenues to statutory remedies against miscarriages of justice."

So, if the person was (in legal terms) found guilty, but that conviction goes against the alternative "in moral terms" sense of guilt, then the UK government will permit a pardon.

Note that the concept of a pardon is implicitly applicable only to legally-guilty people, because a pardon is a statement of forgiveness, and only the guilty can be forgiven. If the conviction is unsafe or just plain wrong (i.e. if the convicted person really didn't do it, or the proof is inadequate), then the conviction should be quashed / set aside / sent back for retrial / etc., and not pardoned.

Red FAIL for Mr W.

2
0
Big Brother

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

In Canada you can apply for and may receive a pardon for a crime which you committed, and were convicted of, if after several years you have not re-offended. There is a recent case where the persons' crime was so egregious that when he applied for a pardon, the national press learned of it and the public outcry was such that it was denied.

I dont know what the situation is in the U.K, but I wouldnt be surprised if it wasnt similare.

0
0

Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

In the UK we have the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Depending on the severity of the offence, you have a period of time after your conviction to demonstrate that you have been rehabilitated (by not offending again). Once that time has elapsed, if you haven't re-offended then your record is deleted and you are considered, legally, to have never offended.

There are exceptions (murder, for example, I believe is not eligible, and possibly anything that comes with a custodial sentence), but in general, keep your nose clean, and you are forgiven.

This is automatic, and all you have to do is play nice.

0
0
(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: I've said it before and I'll say it again....

Indeed, more or less. See page 3 of this PDF for a chart of how long you have to wait until your conviction is "spent". If you're jailed for more than 30 months, it's never spent. This also affects libel cases in terms of dredging up spent convictions.

If you work with children, law enforcement and other sensitive roles, your convictions aren't spent - you must disclose them.

C.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.