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back to article UK parliament presses for pardon for Alan Turing

Members of the UK House of Lords have debated a motion to grant a full Parliamentary pardon to Alan Turing, the Second World War savant whose code-breaking skills did so much to ensure the Allied victory. Turing was one of the key figures who worked at the Bletchley Park cryptanalysis center during the war, decoding German …

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Stop

"It is not too late for the government to pardon"

He has been dead for the last 59 years so yes it is too late - effing morons.

It is never too late to play the politically correct game grasping at an opportunity to demonstrating how much more caring, thoughtful, and tolerant you are than your predecessors of 61 years ago. They are also all dead - not much competition there.

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Meh

Realistically, making apologies for what had been done in the distant past, years ago is symptomatic of the age we live in.

Let's apologise for........

Let's apologise for slavery

Let's apologise for crimes in the past that are no longer crimes

Let's apologise for Nagasaki and Hiroshima

Let's apologise for the British Empire

Let's apologise for the Aboriginies

Let's apologise for the American Indians

Let's Apologise for the bombing of Dresden

Let's, let's, let's.......

Instead of this faux apology thing how about we look back on History discuss what was done, understand why these things happened and that they were 'incidents, acts and products of their time' then celebrate that we have come a long way since. Apologising for the distant past serves no purpose.

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So we should never apologise for or fix anything? How about to the people who are still alive with criminal records due to this 'law'. Turing was just one man convicted. There are more that are still alive. I agree it shouldn't be an exercise in 'white guilt' but we shouldn't leave people living with a criminal conviction for this.

How about we do something constructive like look at how we deal with repealing laws and part of that could include the automatic exoneration under certain circumstances?

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You've just made the point.

If they're going to do it properly, then they ought to pardon *everyone* that was convicted of the same offence, going back to whenever it was made an offence.

Otherwise, what they're saying is that it was wrong to be homosexual unless you were a war hero, and this 'gesture' just looks like political posturing, which it is...

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Anonymous Coward

I don't have a problem with apologising for these terrible events, but everything you have listed are events that affected large groups of people and the people affected, or their survivors, are those apologised to. In this case it seems that Alan Turing's suffering was somehow different to all the others who suffered the same treatment and I object to that. A human life hounded to suicide is still a human life, no matter how much contribution made to the country.

An apology for all, or an apology to no-one.

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Pint

Guy Fawkes too

He was right.

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Trollface

Re: Guy Fawkes too

Guy Fawkes? That Catholic, Spanish-loving, nutter???

I don't think so!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Guy Fawkes too

You mean that changing the Government by blowing up Parliament is a good idea?

Sir John Glubb, the expert on the Middle East, once commented that the tragedy of the Arabs, the thing that had prevented them from developing a successful civilisation, was that they never found a way to change the government peacefully. People like Guy Fawkes seemed determined that the same thing should happen to us.

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Re: Guy Fawkes too

Instead we allowed the Dutch to invade and our king ran away without fighting ?

Certainly peaceful - but not necessarily a model for government

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Guy Fawkes too

Running away after an invasion? Thought only those cheese eating surrender monkeys did that...

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You're missing the point. A formal apology is the logical end-point of the process where we look back on History discuss what was done, understand why these things happened and that they were 'incidents, acts and products of their time' then celebrate that we have come a long way since.

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Anonymous Coward

His suicide is contested by many. Have a read about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing#Death

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Stop

Re: You've just made the point.

"If they're going to do it properly, then they ought to pardon *everyone* that was convicted of the same offence, going back to whenever it was made an offence."

While I agree with the spirit of that idea, is it really that cut and dried? That assumes everyone convicted of gross indecency was a persecuted homosexual. Surely flashers and other genuine criminals would have been prosecuted under the same indecency laws.

Personally I'd much rather politicians leave it alone than use it for cheap heat. And I don't think we should be 'tidying up' our history with pardons. Maybe it's better to have an example that reminds us that the law CAN be wrong.

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Re: You've just made the point.

I strongly believe that no-one can apologise for someone else. It makes no sense: it is completely meaningless.

I tend towards the attitude that we should say "<insert person or body> was wrong", but leave everything else to stand as evidence that wrong things were done, and then work to ensure the wrong thing doesn't happen again. Apologising for and to dead people is just false humility.

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Devil

Lets apologise for

Windows ME, Vista, and 8.

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Re: You've just made the point.

** Going slightly off-topic!

"I strongly believe that no-one can apologise for someone else. It makes no sense: it is completely meaningless."

Fully agree, but isn't that the basis of Christianity? Vicarious redemption via a human sacrifice*. Seems pretty immoral to me, not to mention pointless.

*Anyway, didn't he get better afterwards, making the sacrifice null and void?

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Anonymous Coward

"Apologising for the distant past serves no purpose."

Your mother didn't do a very good job! You've just smacked her on the face!

Yes, let us apologise for our wrong doings. Let us learn from these mistakes, let us own them and pay for them. Let us villify those who supported them and upheld them!

Do do otherwise highlights just how much we have NOT changed.

Shocking!

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Re: Guy Fawkes too

My respects to Glubb Pasha!

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Boffin

Re: Michael Dunn Re: Guy Fawkes too

"My respects to Glubb Pasha!" Old Glubb certainly had an insight into the Arab psyche, but it didn't stop him hawking his services training and commanding the Arab Legion for such "respectable" events as the Kfar Etzion Massacre. The original attack on the Etzion Bloc was Glubb's decision, and he must have had few doubts as to what Arab irregulars would do to any Jews that surrendered, yet he issued no orders to his Arab Legion troops to protect those that did surrender, probably because he rightly predicted the impact of any massacre on the resolve of the other kibbutzes in the strategically-important Etzion Bloc.

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Turing is a national hero ... but I don't agree

This is a cynical attempt to airbrush the repressive nature of the state out of history.

Let his conviction stand as a reminder to an age when we were less tolerant. Otherwise we might start to believe we've solved everything now ....

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IT Angle

Re: Turing is a national hero ... but I don't agree

I agree with you here. We need these reminders of how the state used to be, so we can hopefully avoid a return to such repressive days.

If anything, call the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 "Turing's Law".

(I'm sure we can find an IT angle to relate it to the workings of the machine of the state.)

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Re: Turing is a national hero ... but I don't agree

I agree with your sentiment about the PR value of this, hence it being a pardon for one person and not an exoneration for everyone convicted.

It does however bring up an interesting point, should we not do it just because their motives are questionable (if that were the case they would never do anything, oh wait... ). I think that it would be a priority to consider those people living with a criminal conviction for an unjust law. If their action redressed that then I think it would be less of a token gesture.

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Big Brother

Re: Turing is a national hero ... but I don't agree

"a return to such repressive days"

What RETURN are you talking about?

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Re: Turing is a national hero ... but I don't agree

@ JimmyPage Completely agree. Doing this so we can feel better about ourselves is an insult to the victim.

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Quash it, don't pardon it

A pardon implies admission of guilt by the pardoned. Turing did nothing wrong to begin with, it's the law itself which was wrong. A pardon would semi-legitimize the law by implication. In France, for instance, Captain Dreyfus was pardoned in 1899 as a matter of expediency to free him from prison, until his conviction could be quashed in 1906. Accepting the pardon implied admission of guilt, and he only did it because he was exhausted by 4 years of hard labor. In the case of Turing, there is no such practical or humanitarian consideration, and thus the principled thing to do is to wait until the conviction itself is overturned.

The proper course of action would be to abrogate the law he was convicted under, with retroactive effect, and cancel his conviction. Not sure how that would work in UK law, in the US the law would be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and any convictions under it vacated.

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Re: Quash it, don't pardon it

@Fazal, nicely put.

And why this should go ahead for Turing:

Steven Pinker, a Harvard professor and popular science author, wrote in one of his books:"It would be an exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing explained the nature of logical and mathematical reasoning, invented the digital computer, solved the mind-body problem, and saved Western civilization.

"But it would not be much of an exaggeration."

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Re: Quash it, don't pardon it

Not at all. in the famous, in New Zealand, case of Arthur Allan Thomas, he was pardoned after it was made abundantly clear the police had fitted him up. Its an apology by the state as in ' I beg your pardon, sorry for detaining you' which is why it's so difficult to get one out of the government.

In this example, the crown could reopen the case, find parts of Turings statement inadmissable as evidence overturning the case.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quash it, don't pardon it

Fully agreed with Mr. Majid on his reasoning. I would also add, instead of a "pardon" to someone important who has been dead for half a century, what about we take a look at what we are still doing wrong right now, so we can prevent further suffering and yet more "pardons" down the line. Or are we stupid enough to believe we are already perfect as a society? As they did fifty years ago.

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Stop

Re: Quash it, don't pardon it

"A pardon implies admission of guilt by the pardoned....." But Turing WAS guilty of the crime as the law stood then.

"..... A pardon would semi-legitimize the law by implication...." The law was completely legitimate at the time.

".....The proper course of action would be to abrogate the law he was convicted under, with retroactive effect, and cancel his conviction....." No it would not be as you would then have all the people convicted under laws that have changed since trying to get unconvicted. Where do you stop? For example, I got a parking ticket back in the '80s, the parking laws have changed, can I demand my "conviction" is quashed and my fine returned? Which brings up the other big and hidden point - if Turing's conviction is quashed then so too will have be that of many others, some of them still alive, and the question of restitution will arise. Sorry, but if you break the law of the day (and remember, these men did it knowing they were breaking the law) then tough.

In Turing's case I agree it is harsh given his wartime service, but if we want to go back through history "righting wrongs" and stumping up cash, you'll have bankrupted the nation before we even get round to the "witches" burned at the stake! Instead, focus on looking forward and improving the World we live in today.

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Re: Quash it, don't pardon it

We already did by quashing all the WWI shell-chock victims executed for cowardice.

For some reason the government seemed to think WWI veterans played better to the Daily Mail crowd that dirty filthy mathematicians.

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Pint

Re: Quash it, don't pardon it

Today is one of those wonderful days when I can agree with Matt!

Have a tipple, old boy (over there, somewhere ---------->>>)

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Re: Quash it, don't pardon it

Agree that we should learn from the past to fix the future.

Just one minor point though: 'before we even get round to the "witches" burned at the stake!'

In England, and New England for that matter, witches were hung, not burned. Scotland burned witches, as did other parts of Europe, although this generally referred to the burning of their bodies after they were executed. Spain and Italy were the only countries known to practice 'burning at the stake', thanks to the Inquisition, and it is from here that the myth of 'burning witches' came from.

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Holmes

Hollywood Pressure

They've got to do something now that there's a Turing biopic coming out with big names attached to it. They don't really care about Turing's name, they just want to be able to refute the film and play politically correct games.

It's called The Imitation Game and has Sherlock Holmes and that really skinny lady pirate in it.

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Thumb Down

Re: Hollywood Pressure

there's a Turing biopic coming out

Please, no. Is nothing sacred?

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Re: Hollywood Pressure

Went to IMDB to take a look, and according to them, Leonardo Di Caprio was originally going to play Turing...

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WTF?

Re: Hollywood Pressure

They've got to do something now that there's a Turing biopic coming out with big names attached to it.

Why "now"? Was Breaking the Code not biopic enough for you? Did it not have big enough names?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115749/

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Re: Hollywood Pressure

Never heard of it...

I haven't been to the movies in five years but I've heard of the new movie coming out. If I stumbled upon it you can be sure others have as well.

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Re: Hollywood Pressure

Breaking The Code is a great piece of theatre and although based on Turing's life is a bit fictionalised - certainly names are changed and some events created or slightly changed for the theatre - although the spirit of Turing's life is there, I think Hugh Whitemore puts his own thoughts into Turing's mouth too sometimes (of course true of any theatrical production!). It will be interesting to see how authentic the new film will be.

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Re: Hollywood Pressure

Whenever I hear of Hollywood doing something like this I am reminded of the Film ‘Churchill, The Hollywood years’ where Christian Slater plays Winston Churchill, as an American GI with a cigar and Tommy Gun, with his love of ‘Irish Cockneys’, and a character called ‘Jim Jim Charoo’ who lives on Ye Old Dick Van Dyke Street pretty much hit the nail on the head with its take on Hollywood American audience pandering and historical inaccuracies, Unfortunately the film is not as good as the idea.

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He and everyone, dead or alive, convicted under section 11 for homosexual activity needs a full exoneration and apology.

The law was wrong, it was repealed because it was wrong, so why are the convictions valid? This would take next to no time to remedy, just do it. How can we hold ourselves up to the rest of the world as paragons of human rights and criticize other countries when we have people with a criminal record because of where they like to park their bike.

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Anonymous Coward

Liberal left leaning sandal wearing tree hugging apologist.

Yes crimes that were are no longer crimes, but they were then and they were a product of the times.

Instead of trying to airbrush the crimes out we was should look on it as a discussion point and understand how far we have come from those days. They are important historical lessons that did happen. If you want to shed a few fake tears then so be it.

Next thing will be that someone will apologise for the executions of all convicted murderers since the begining of time or the Italians can aplogise for the Roman Empire.

An apology for this kind of thing only strokes the ego of the Polititian that makes it, an example being Gordon Brown and his apology for slavery. Even though it was the UK that finally stood against it.

By all means apologise to those still living but get a grip and look at history for what it was.

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Why do the right wing mouthpieces dislike sandals and trees so much. I know real right wing nutters and they wear sandals and one of them built a nice treehouse for his kids. The anti-sandal anti-tree platform seems to be a platform only found with online commenters. It is very strange.

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I am in no way trying to airbrush history, I just believe that we should exonerate those convicted, especially those still alive. I also argued it was wrong to change the name of the dog in the remake of Dambusters, we shouldn't pretend things didn't happen, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try and make them right. Especially if there are still people affected by it alive, as there are.

As for sandals and trees, it seems it reminds them of their leader's defeats in Africa and Russia.

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Flame

And the rest ?

Turing did great work during the war, but what about all the other people who were convicted under this law?

And what about people who were convicted under other laws that were subsequently repealed?

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JMB

Re: And the rest ?

Agreed, too many talk as if he single-handedly won the war.

He was a brilliant mathematician but so were many others at Bletchley Park. It was claimed yesterday that he built Colossus but that was the work of Tommy Flowers and others with Turing having nothing (or very little) to do it.

Turing has roads named after him, statues but the majority of the others have little recognition and their names are unknown to most people.

I always get the impression he has so much recognition because he was homosexual, not despite it, with a big lobby pushing for it. What will they want next?

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Re: And the rest ?

There's much in what you say. Alan Turing is in danger of being remade as a secular saint for our times (complete with martyrdom). But while history is complicated, heroes are simple, and they help us feel good about ourselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And the rest ?

No, he has so much recognition because he brought together a large number of ideas that were kicking around in the 1930s, developed the theory and turned it into practical technology just when it was needed. Turing's Bombe demonstrated that automation could be applied to a mathematical problem, and the Turing Machine demonstrated that in principle such machines could be built for general purpose computing. Everything since then has basically been a commentary on or development of Turing's work. The change, first from relays, then to valves, then to germanium transistors, then to silicon transistors and finally to CMOS, merely reflects progress in electronics. Flowers saw that relays could be replaced by valves and worked hard to promote it - but without Turing's work, there would have been nothing to improve.

Newton may have been gay or asexual, but that isn't why he got so much recognition. Same with Turing.

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Turing needs no pardon.

The British .gov, on the other hand?

There is no excuse for what they did. Idiots.

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Re: Turing needs no pardon.

The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there. At the time, homosexual acts were illegal in many countries (including the USA). There are many where they remain illegal. If you want to do something useful, campaign against those laws, not some perceived historical injustice.

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Re: Turing needs no pardon.

Why not do both?

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