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 …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Jad

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

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

      1. dotdavid


        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" 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.

        1. Giles Jones Gold badge

          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.

        2. haroldo
          Thumb Up


          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..)

          1. kain preacher Silver badge

            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 .

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

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

          2. PassiveSmoking


            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

        3. geekguy

          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

      2. DrXym Silver badge

        Guilty because

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

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Vic

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



  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    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.

    1. Cameron Colley

      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.

    2. johnnytruant


      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.

      1. Rob


        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.

        1. unitron

          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.

          1. Vic

            > 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...


            1. Neil Greatorex

              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. :-)

            2. KitD


              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.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. Someone Else Silver badge


                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.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward


                  Yes, we Brits are mose small minded!

        2. Drew V.

          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.

      2. corrodedmonkee

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

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. DrXym Silver badge

            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.

            1. unitron

              You are a genius

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

      3. Graham Wilson

        @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.

    3. Neil Greatorex

      "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..

    4. garbo
      Thumb Up

      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.

  3. phuzz Silver badge
    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.

    1. Just Thinking

      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?

    2. Vic

      > exonerating Turing

      No-one is talking about exonerating him.

      The proposal is for a pardon...


    3. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    4. mhoulden

      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.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        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

    5. Graham Wilson
      Thumb Up

      @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.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        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.

  4. Dropper


    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.

  5. Gordon 10 Silver badge


    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      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.

      1. Andus McCoatover

        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.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          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>

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Or a posthumous Life Peerage perhaps?

  7. xperroni


    "[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?

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      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.

      1. Graham Wilson

        @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.

      2. xperroni

        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.

  8. Willington

    @Gordon 10

    "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."

    I'm sorry Gordon but I can't agree with you here. I have actively demonstrated for most of my adult life against unjust laws that this and previous governments have passed or refused to repeal, and I still do. Do I too have to accept responsibility for being part of a democratic society that elected these people even though I never voted for them and did everything in my power short of taking up arms against them to stop just a little bit of their madness? Do you honestly believe that the average man or woman on the street has any say in what laws are passed or repealed?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge


      I thought it was fairly clear that the references to "parents and grandparents" was an impersonal one. If you can point to particular people alive at the time who spoke out against those laws, then obviously they would be absolved of any moral responsibility for them. I'm afraid that still leaves the other 99%.

      That other 99%, of course, also explains your perception that the average man or woman in the street has no say. Every single one of them is out-numbered by everyone else. Complicated stuff, democracy.

      1. Willington

        @Ken Hagan

        It's not that complicated Ken. We have a system where you need money to get elected and as soon as you're elected you are effectively a despotism and do exactly what the hell you like as long as you don't upset big business or the Daily Mail too much. You aren't legally bound to do the things you said you were going to do to get elected and you take money from lobbying groups (who by default are also people with money and are therefore allowed to "lobby" which is somehow different to "bribe") who want laws changed and then make the appropriate changes just like you were paid to.

        We call it a democracy but better words to describe what we have would be plutocracy or plutarchy.

        1. Graham Wilson
          Thumb Up

          @Willington -- Spot on.

          Spot on. Said with great precision.

          Why our system of governance continues to exist as it is, is that most don't understand this.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why the Brit Empire Collapsed

    Well, if you shoot out your brains for idiot reasons, someone else will snatch the lunch from under your slackjawed drooling blank stare...

    Modern cases come to mind:

    Arabs (and to a lesser extent Indians) wasting half their brain power (females)...

    Americans throwing out fully trained and paid for PhDs because they are "aliens"... well, Europe does the same thing...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are we wasting time on something that will have no impact on anything bar the satisfaction it might give to a few campaigners to have got one over of the gub'mint?

    The previous Government has said sorry... which is fine, but why does it need to go further? The past is the past, let it go!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      There is a theory that you can learn from the past.

      Whether it's not invading Russia in winter or not hiring the best candidate because they are gay/female/muslim/black - it's worth remembering.

      1. BoldMan

        Whats that got to do with it? We aren't going to repeat the same mistake again in this instance - "Oh looks in another Alan Turing, lets persecute him for his sexuality again, it worked the first time!" This is a very tragic instance of old laws and old moral codes that have since been fixed. Should we go back and say sorry to every criminal that was executed since the death penalty has been repealed?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          No, but if I was a security officer at GCHQ and I had a candidate with a conviction for smoking a joint or for hacking his school's computer, or some other criminal act - I might think twice about automatically rejecting them.

        2. Colin Millar

          Did someone forget to tell the executioner?

          There shouldn't have been any criminals executed since the death penalty was repealed.

          Or are we talking SAS/Gibraltar type operations?

          1. PatientOne

            @Colin Millar

            You could read it that way, or you could read it as 'pardon those who were executed prior to the death penalty being abolished'.

      2. unitron

        You left one out...

        Now if only we could get them to learn from the "no land wars in East Asia" one.

  11. hitmouse

    Case law dictates

    that they follow the Catholic Church's example with Galileo and patch it over in 350 years.

  12. eulampios

    Rule Britannia!

    Britts would probably hang Pyotr Ilyich before he could compose the music, people nowadays cannot celebrate their Christmas without (at least here in the US).

    Interestingly, both Russian Emperor and the government could put up with a similar sin of P.I. Tchaikovskiy. The reason was his genius and cultural contribution. Apparently, this was an Asiatic, non-civilized view.

    It is a lesson to learn from the civilized British Empire, its democratic and humanistic values: no great and honorable military, scientific contribution would help, even posthumously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      People in glass houses...

      Did you say something about humane, civilised behaviour?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Giving him a pardon now would be as much use as giving him a free ticket to the first civilian space flight = nothing, he's dead. Better to not attempt to revise history, and let it stand for what it is.

    When apologising for acts of our ancestors, I'm always reminded of the student who travelled to Africa to apologise for his families involvement in the slave trade. It never entered his head that the generation of black Africans he was apologising to were the ones who sold their rival tribe members to the slavers in the first place!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You guys......

    Look, Turing doesn't give a shit anymore. He is dead. And this Lord Sharkey is a dumbass. So please, let's try to bash Sharkey more and talk less about the knighthood for Turing. We are here to make fun of the stupid living idiots, not to argue about the brilliant dead minds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sharkey? Don't start me...

      It would be wrong of me to say that "Lord" Sharkey appears to be a Johnny-Come-Lately (stop sniggering, that's not what it means) in the Lords, put there for no obvious reason in 2010, so a reward for something he has done, but we can't tell what. I'm sure he's a fine, upstanding etc...

      He has also been working tirelessly for Turkey for 45 years, and is one of the clowns trying to get them into the EU, ffs.

  15. BilboBobbins
    Thumb Down

    300 soldiers convicted and executed for "cowardice" in WW1 received a posthumous pardon in 2006, so there's clearly a legal precedent for this.

  16. Sandtreader

    A Turing test...

    ... in which the investigator is able to ask a number of questions of a Noble Lord to ascertain if there is any sign of intelligence within.

    But seriously, folks, even as a lifelong fan of Turing (it's not just computing - check out what he did for developmental biology) and a strong believer in gay rights, I'm in two minds about this pardon business. I agree with JGC on why he couldn't support the second petition:

    But I think there's also an important semantic difference between a pardon and apology - it seems to me the apology is the stronger response.

    A pardon *could* be read as "OK, you *were* guilty of gross indecency, you nasty little sodomite, but because you did all this other cool stuff we'll rather pointlessly let you off". Whereas the apology quite clearly says "OK, we can't undo the past, but we do recognise that the law at the time was abhorrent".

    So the pardon *could* still exist in a system in which the law at that time is still considered valid and moral now, and his (supposed) moral guilt for homosexuality is just outweighed by his other gifts to society. The apology is stronger because it unambiguously and entirely transfers any guilt (vicariously) to the government of the time.

    Does this make any sense?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plus ca change

    The worst thing about the Goverment apology, is that they have done very little to prevent something quite similar happening again. There are still plenty of offences that a modern day Turing could be convicted of and hounded into suicide for. Turing's conviction was not just, but does stand as a reminder of how the State can destroy those who will not conform.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      The argument in that case was that they were wrongly convicted - because shell-shock/PTSD wasn't recognised at the time. Although that's just political weasling.

      The 'correct' thing to do would be to say that; looking back, it was wrong to persecute gays, just as it was wrong to deny women the vote, or to prevent Jewish asylum seekers from Germany in the 30s - or a whole bunch of other stuff. BUT more important would be for the same politicians to consider this the next time they are reacting to a Daily Mail headline.

    2. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      RE: "Does this make any sense?" Yes it certainly does Sandtreader.

      A great deal of sense in fact - thank you.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is Lord Sharkey a closet American fundamentalist Christian? he talks like one.

  19. Templeton Beckmarsh

    So what...

    What the guy should have said was "We can't pardon him because the Gross Indecency laws are useful for quieting the masses and we don't wish to weaken them by giving people the impression they're not an archaic club to crush non-conformist thoughts and ideas"

    I am Templeton Beckmarsh (aka Flampton Hoppings) and I approved this message.

  20. Simon Lyon

    A posthumous pardon proclaims someone innocent after death ...

    ... unlike a pardon to someone stil alive/serving a sentence which is instead a total commutation of the sentence to "no penalty".

    Therefore, I regretfully have to agree that it's inappropriate because Turing was in fact guilty of the barbaric and inexcusable laws in place at the time.

    So the government probably have made the right decision to apologise for those laws being in place and acknowledging that he (and thousands of others) should not have been prosecuted.

    The only way a pardon could possibly work is if *everyone* ever prosecuted under those laws was pardoned as innocent of a crime - on the basis that the law itself was in some way (constitutionally?) invalid.

    That might work - and be very worthwhile campaigning for if it can be stood up - but a single pardon for a single person just doesn't fit into the concept of posthumous pardon in our justice system.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Pardon everyone

      Yes. When a bad and unjust law is repealed, part of that process should be a retrospective pardon for all convicted.

      My suspicion is that the noble lords are more concerned about issues of precedence and liability than of justice

  21. Stevie Silver badge


    A pardon is not a declaration of innocence, it is a forgiving of the crime regardless. If there is no crime, there cannot be a pardon for it. Pardons are sometimes issued in the case of wrongful convictions, but these are a usually legal face-saving maneuver designed to forestall future "second thoughts on the matter", and more to the point are a pardon for the crime that the person was convicted of (possibly wrongfully).

    1. Simon Lyon

      Then since the crime itself is what we object to ...

      ... *everyone* convicted of that crime has to be "forgiven".

      Turing was a great man but an unjust law is unjust whether it causes the death of such a man or someone (during the war) working in a munitions factory, or serving on board a ship, or flying a bomber.

      Some sort of posthumous repeal of law itself is what's needed - if that's even possible. The guy who set up the original petition for an apology himself rejects the idea of a pardon - because that insults every other poor sod who was persecuted under the same barbarism!

  22. Sandtreader

    Point of order, my Noble Lords

    That it was my Lord McNally who furnished the response; my Lord Sharkey posited the question.

    (can't get Laurie Anderson out of my head though; paging Lord Sharkey, white courtesy telephone please.)

  23. Simon Lyon

    With regard to soldiers with shell shock - different concept and situation

    Those soldiers were tried and convicted for "showing cowardice in the face of the enemy".

    When it was shown that they were in fact suffering from mental trauma/PTSD - no cowardice involved - they were found factually innocent of the crime of which they had been convicted and properly pardoned.

    In that case the crime itself still stands and in some countries still conceivably carries the death penalty in time of war. It was the convictions that were unsound not the law itself.

    In Turing's case we're talking about the law being invalid, not the conviction.

    Apples and Oranges.

  24. ideapete

    To quote the bard

    On our foresighted caring Lord Sharkey " Were I like thee I'd throw away myself "

    Sure Alan T would agree with that sentiment

  25. Rikkeh

    No case in law, I'm afraid

    You can't just grant pardons willy nilly in the UK to the extent that you can in the US.

    My understanding of the concept of pardon is that it is applied to situations where the person is somehow "morally innocent" of the crime he was found guilty of (essentially, being guilty... by the letter but not the spirit of the law- given the context of his conviction and the standards of the time, this isn't Turing). This was also used as a way to give plea deals way back when, but probably wouldn't be allowed today.

    It's also what's called a "royal perogative" right, i.e. something that is at the monarch's discretion. The scope of the perogative has been cut down over several hundred years by parliamentary sovereignty. To extend the perogative would (in my limited understanding- it's been years since I did constitutional law) almost certainly be unconstitutional. And, unfortunately, pardoning Turing would be such an extension.

    That's not to say that there shouldn't be some kind of law which retrospectively annuls all convictions for homosexual conduct (I think there probably should). However, what they were asking for was, strictly speaking, illegal without a new law being made. What Brown gave in 2009 was probably the limit of what you could do without a new law.

    More info on the concept of pardon (and how the UK and US systems apply it differently) can be found here in an article by the late great Lord Bingham:

  26. VeeMan

    House of Schmords...

    One of their peers are being investigated for quite a few illegal actions (=A & Title.SubStr(9,3) & cr . . . ), yet they don't think it's OK to admit to the failure of previous governments (including their own peerage passing these laws at the time)? Fair enough to all those crying out about being innocent until proven guilty in the previously mentioned case however Turing's "illegal activities" has been successfully defended as a human right, yet they see fit for the final judgement of imposed imprisonment or chemical castration to stand.

    Not that it would make a difference for the man who is long gone and suffered regardless, however it just shows us living individuals how hypocritical, misguided and flawed those red-cloaked toads are.

    1. JCHCanuck

      What of those alive today convicted of that crime

      If the UK is not willing to expunge the record of Alan Turing or other men and women convicted of homosexuality then they are putting those individuals (still alive) at a disadvantage within the work place, which I'm pretty sure goes directly again the government's anti-discrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation. Those with the conviction will have to state that they have a criminal record to potential employers, even though they were arrested and convicted for simply being themselves. They very act of not pardoning all those convicted under that law is discriminatory let alone not pardoning such an amazing man as Alan Turing.

      A good and just government should be able to admit when they were wrong and when they failed the people who they are meant to serve and look out for. The governments failure here at this day and age is a failure to recognize and right the wrongs of the past. Apologies are hollow in the absence of actions to support it.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Von Neumann and Turing

    "These documents are relevant to the question of what von Neumann knew of Turing's work on computability before the Second World War, and so also to the question of how von Neumann could have drawn on Turing's ideas when formulating the EDVAC report in 1945".

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    House of Lards

    It's the 21st century, does any country need a bunch of hereditary lords?

    If the common belief is true, many of them are far less than geniuses and some enjoyed a fruity public school lifestyle. I wonder how many voted against homosexuality whilst being exactly that?

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @AC re: House of Lards - A heriditary house?

      Probably not, but a second chamber, quite definitely.

      But most of the hereditary peers were removed from the house by the last administration. Those peers that remain are selected life peers who have been elevated for their contribution to the country, and society as a whole (or at least that is the aim). As a result, they are supposed to be respected, and as such are given some power to ask the government to reconsider prospective legislation, which is a good idea.

      The real problem is that although a second house is a thoroughly good idea, it must be disconnected from the House of Commons by having a completely different selection mechanism. There is no point in making it elected in the same time-scales as the lower house, because it then becomes just a rubber stamp body, reflecting the same issues that were in vogue when the election was held.

      I for one feel that a house selected by merit is a suitable system. Maybe there should be a time limit on how long members of the Lords should be allowed to remain, but if the AC actually bothered to watch Lords debates on the BBC Parliament channel, then I think that they would be surprised about how interesting and well informed some of the speeches are. I was particularly impressed by a seemingly old foagy (can't remember who it was, I really should find out) standing up in the Lords during the ID card debates and making one of the most reasoned and interesting 20 minute contributions to the debate that I have ever heard. Changed my perspective completely.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge

        And the law lords ...

        It *used* to be the case that the UK was the only country in Europe, where the second chamber (house of lords) was actually legally trained (because of the presence of the Law Lords, who were all drawn from the judiciary) to review legislation. All other countries second houses are simply politicians again.

        Personally, the simplest, cheapest, and most democratic way to select a second house would be to take the person coming second in the constituency election.

    2. Vic

      > does any country need a bunch of hereditary lords?

      We need some sort of second chamber to counter the excesses of the first.

      The hereditary principle is clearly anathema - but is it really any worse than stuffing the chamber with the appointees of the current PM?

      Hereditary peers are clearly wrong. They just appear to be a little less wrong than the alternatives :-(


  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More fearsome than a tsunami of similar calls...

    may be the fear that making new laws retrospective to automatically pardon all those convicted under the old laws, could lead to suits against the state for damages, either by living ex-cons or their surviving family members...

    Any legal minds care to enlighten on this point?

  30. Zog The Undeniable
    Black Helicopters

    The issue here

    is that they don't want to pardon all the other convicted male benders*, many of whom are still living with a conviction on their record for a crime that no longer exists. I'm not sure why - are they scared of the cost of compensation claims from people who could never get a decent job after conviction?

    *as any fule no, lesbianism was never illegal because, apocryphally, Queen Victoria refused to believe women could do such things.

  31. fot


    The British government used to chemically castrate homosexuals ?

    I always thought Dr. Mengele of Auschwitz concentration camp and Joseph Stalin were the only ones who ever did that kind of stuff. Mugabe maybe.

    How did the Irish deal with this British chemical castration habit in the past ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > The British government used to chemically castrate homosexuals ?

      Convicted homosexuals were sometimes given a choice, as Turing was, between chemical "castration" (female hormone injections) or gaol. In Turing's case he accepted, and later regretted, the chemical option. It wasn't forced on him.

      1. Winkypop Silver badge

        "It wasn't forced on him"

        No, not at all.

        Choice one: Clink with the (less than delicate / intellectual) lads of E wing

        Choice two: Chemical castration

        He probably preferred a third option, leave me the fuck alone.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      > How did the Irish deal with this British chemical castration habit in the past ?

      ?? Given that Ireland didn't decriminalise homosexuality until almost 30 years after the UK "the Irish" wouldn't have been in much of a position to comment.

  32. Ascylto
    Big Brother

    It's the law ... for some!

    So, Sophie Scholl of the White Rose, the 21 years old student was RIGHTLY guillotined by the Nazis for distributing a leaflet announcing that the ‘day of reckoning’ had arrived for ‘Adolf Hitler, the most contemptible tyrant our people has ever endured’.

    She was convicted of treason. It was the law at the time. She pleaded guilty.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      Thank you for teaching me something, anyone reading this who doesn't know about Sophie Scholl needs to Wikipedia her ...

  33. Archivist

    Let's move on

    Turing was a great and admirable genius but he committed and got caught for a crime. The fact that most of us judge the law to have been wrong is irrelevant. There are lots of current laws that are stupid but if I choose break one, I face the consequences or do my best not to be found out.

    It makes little difference whether a pardon is granted or not, the wrong has been done. Better to concentrate on making todays laws fairer.

  34. Hooch181

    So, let me get this right...

    From what the government is saying, it would be wrong for the German government to apologize to Jews, Homosexuals and political prisoners from circa 1940.

    Well, it was in accordance with the law at the time...

    The law is an ass!

    1. Hooch181


      Pardon, not Apologize...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why don't we ask Turing his opinion

    Oh, hang on, we can't,. He's dead, so it makes no bloody difference whether he's pardoned or not.

    1. Hooch181


      hurt for them to do it either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Do you mean this is not costing the public purse? Spending public money on something which has no use might be a common sport and this case might be considered more worthy than others but why stop at Turing? If they are to pardon Turing then they should pardon all others convicted of the same offence which will mean even more public money spent and public resources tied up for no gain. Then they'd have to pardon all those convicted of any past crime which has since been repealed.

        Let's considered the opposite, would you be happy to be convicted of something you did twenty years ago which wasn't then a crime but has since become one?

        All this soul searching and righting wrongs for no benefit is complete twaddle.

        1. Hooch181


          much does it cost to pardon someone who is dead?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How

            Each case will have to be reviewed and documented, then some civil servant will have to issue some paperwork. How much? I don't know but it will have a cost then mutliply that by all the other cases.

            And don't forget to answer whether you'd be happy to be convicted of a crime retrospectively.

            1. Hooch181

              How is pardoning...

              someone retroactively anything like this?

              No, ofcourse I wouldn't. But were not talking about punishing someone, were talking about pardoning.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: How is pardoning...

                >But were not talking about punishing someone, were talking about pardoning.

                We are talking about pardoning someone now that the law he was convicted of has changed. If the law applicable at the time was still in force then there wouldn't be this discussion.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  I almost dread to ask but...

                  If the speed limit on motorways was raised to 80mph would you expect all the fines collected for driving between 70-80 to be refunded and the points on your licence reduced?

                  If the speed limit were to be reduced to 60mph would you expect to recieve a fine and points for the times you were driving over 60.

                  In bothe cases the reasonable answer is a resounding no. so what's the big deal about Turing?

                  1. Vic

                    > In bothe cases the reasonable answer is a resounding no. so what's the big deal about Turing?

                    You miss the point.

                    A pardon would not be an attempt to re-write history. It would not say that he didn't commit what was, at the time, a criminal act.

                    A pardon would say that he did commit the act, but that the state has decided to forgive him, on account of the vast numbers of people he helped save and the enormous contribution he made to what has become the modern world.

                    The pardon would not be because the law has changed, but because he was such an exceptional man.

                    So your points about speed limits just don't come into it.


                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward


                      >The pardon would not be because the law has changed, but because he was such an exceptional man.

                      Oh, I see. So if you do a good turn you can commit a crime and expect a pardon. Personally, I think that's an even more dangerous path to go down and smacks of celebrity culture.

                      1. Vic

                        > Oh, I see.

                        No, I don't think you do.

                        > So if you do a good turn you can commit a crime and expect a pardon.


                        An *exceptional* person might occasionally be granted a pardon for an offence he has committed.

                        Any talk of expectation means you haven't grasped what a pardon is about; this isn't trading cards, it's the realisation by a state that, just very occasionally, someone warrants being let off something bad they *have* done because of the good stuff they have also done.


                  2. JCHCanuck

                    Likening something like a speeding ticket, which gets you a fine, to people who were arrested and put in prison or who had to under go chemical castration simply for being who they are is ludicrous. Further more you don't get a criminal record with a speeding ticket. Pretty sure you don't have to declare to an employer the number of speeding or parking tickets you received, or tell customs agents of them when you try to enter certain countries, or risk not being allowed to travel to countries because of them.

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      @Chris W

      So the concept of justice dosen't matter to you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Yes, justice does matter. It is unjust if someone is wrongly convicted of a crime. To be convicted of a crime you committed is not unjust. if laws change then just as you wouldn't want to be punished for doing something that wasn't a crime but now is you should also not expect to be pardoned if a crime you were convicted of no longer is.

        Isn't one of the themes of 1984 amending history to comply with current laws and you all seem to be totally opposed to that yet in this case you think it's warranted.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe he'd prefer not to be pardoned?

    His conviction will remain as a permanent stain on the establishment of the time; a pardon would be letting them off the hook.

    As many have already pointed out, Turing will be remembered for saving our nation; they'll be remembered, if at all, for betraying him.

    The current set of idiots can look at it and wonder what future generations will think of them; maybe it will help reign in some of their stupidity!

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      The establishment.

      no effect on the establishment of the time, most of then are probably dead as well.

      The only stains that worry politicians are the sort that were on Monica Lewinsky's dress, but only when the moral right find out about it.

      Paris icon, who else.

  37. Purlieu


    will pardon Turing six weeks before the next election, you read it here first

  38. Lallabalalla


    We're doomed.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Changing history?

    Laws about sexual behaviour are constantly changing. We can, and I do, castigate Government for the barbaric treatment of individuals living their sexuality but we should not attempt to change history. The conviction should stand as a reminder of a great injustice. The fact that Alan Turing was a genius who probably saved many, many lives should have no bearing on the matter.

  40. Michael Dunn


    We go on and on about these outdated laws and current interpretations: I'd just like to know how many commentards have paid their 5 shilling fines for not attending a CofE service on a Sunday. I am a Buddhist, but I regularly sang in the choir at Evensong on Sundays at a fairly broadminded Anglican Cathedral before moving abroad to retire!

    One of my favourite composers, William Byrd, regularly paid his five shillings, and remained one of Queen Elizabeth's favourites, though persisting in flouting the law and remaining Catholic.

    Hint to Osborne - take up all these uncollected fines!

    There's a copy of the Book of Common Prayer in the pocket - one of the summa bona of the English language.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We can, and I do, castigate Government

    Ooh! That must be painful!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make sense

    I never understood this pardoning / apologising thing.

    Recognition that opinions have changed over time and that therefore various events in the past would not happen today is very nice but ultimately meaningless.

    Also, once you start pardoning people, where do you stop? We used to hang starving children for stealing food. We used to lock up the physically and mentally disabled in workhouses. We used to burn witches (well, old women whose land we wanted, anyway). Are you going to pardon all of them? Pardoning is only appropriate when there is doubt someone committed a crime by the standards of the time.

    1. Vic

      > Pardoning is only appropriate when there is doubt someone committed

      > a crime by the standards of the time.

      No, that's quashing a sentence.

      A pardon is when there is no doubt that the person committed the crime but, for other reasons, the state has decided to forgive the act.


    2. JCHCanuck

      I think when there are people still alive today who have criminal records under that idiotic UK law then those people and those who have passed away should be pardoned, their criminal records expunged. While Turing was convicted in 1952 the UK didn't stop arresting people for homosexuality until 1967 when the decriminalization of homosexual acts came into play.

      So you will excuse me if I take offense at the fact that the British government has essentially said to all of those still with a criminal record for homosexuality that they deserve to have that record, and that I take offense to you backing up such asinine idiology. Likening something that was still in play in living memory to the 1800's and earlier is absurd.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019