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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    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?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Good point!

      But it's a start :)

    2. Rampant Spaniel

      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).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

    3. exanime

      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

      1. silent_count

        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.

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          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.

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            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.

      2. James Micallef 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. 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...

    4. Steve Todd

      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.


      1. Rampant Spaniel

        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.

        1. Arctic fox

          @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.

    5. Jim 59


      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. . That's good going.

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson 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.

    1. RoboJ1M

      Re: Hear, hear!

      Although one wonders why the pressure is required at all?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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?

      1. nichomach

        Re: Hear, hear!

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

      2. Captain Underpants

        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

        1. AceRimmer

          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"

          1. Captain Underpants

            Re: Hear, hear!


            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.

            1. Fatman Silver 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:


              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. Nuke
          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.

          1. bugalugs

            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. bugalugs

              For Pardon also read

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

  3. firefly

    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.

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      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'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

      2. Steve Crook

        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.

        1. JimmyPage 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.

          1. nichomach
            Thumb Up

            Re: @Steve Crook

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

            1. Elmer Phud 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

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward 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. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: @Steve Crook

                  The BBC reported something similar in the Summer, Http://

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

            2. Tom 35 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.

            3. Esskay

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

              Stop giving them ideas!

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward 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

  4. Phil W

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

    1. Tom 7 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.

      1. Phil W

        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. Tom 7 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. AceRimmer

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

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


        3. keith_w
          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.

          1. RivieraKid

            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.

            1. diodesign (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.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      What utter bollox! Tho, I expect it!

    3. Lord Voldemortgage

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

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


      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.

      1. Phil W

        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.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      @Phil W (and D Cameron):


      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.

    5. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      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.

  5. Doug Glass


    Only three comments? Oh that's gross. Well, not really, if it were gross there'd be 144 comments. meh ... move along, quite obviously no story here.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "conviction for gross indecency"

    Its should be Google/Apple and the ilk who need to be prosecuted for gross indecency!

  7. Michael Hawkes

    Why do they need to be innocent?

    In the US, the president and governors can grant pardons or commute sentences for people who are guilty, which is probably why it's a sometimes controversial practice. I can't decide if the US or the UK has a better grasp of when pardons should be granted, but if it happened in the US, Turing would probably have been pardoned by now.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Why do they need to be innocent?

      I'm sure the next Hollywood revisionist outing of WWII "history" will soon correct things for you and Turing will become a poor Californian schoolboy named Steven who stumbled across an Enigma device in the West Side (part of Fremont Township).

    2. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Why do they need to be innocent?

      Thats entirely the point. They did nothing wrong. They were convicted under a sexist (being a lesbian was fine?) and homophobic law that has no place in our society and was later repealed.

      A pardon is entirey innappropriate (it suggests you still did something wrong but we forgive you this time), an automatic quashing of all convictions under that law is the bare minimum required. How can we lecture Saudi Arabia, China et al about human rights when we have people with convictions for same sex relations.

  8. JimmyPage Silver badge

    No pardon ...

    as others have pointed out, let his conviction stand, to remind us of the nasty, bigoted, spiteful nature of those that rule us. Don't let them airbrush that out of history.

    1. Phil W
      Thumb Up

      Re: No pardon ...

      A very good point and one I hadn't thought of.

    2. ukgnome Silver badge

      Re: No pardon ...

      Hear Hear - possibly the best constructed message from an El Reg commentard.

    3. MrXavia
      Thumb Up

      Re: No pardon ... But an apology

      No pardon, but an apology, to all homosexuals convicted, saying that it was wrong for there to be that law!

      now if only we could get all stupid laws repealed we'd be on the way to having a sane country!

  9. lyngvi

    Pardon != assertion of innocence

    Since when does a person need to be thought innocent to be granted a pardon?

    Perhaps things are different here in the States; here, the ability to grant pardons is a privilege of our elected executives. Pardons declare the offender forgiven, not innocent. Courts decide guilt and innocence, not legislators/MPs or executives/PMs.

    I'd put good money on history proving McNally to be full of shit regarding the policies on pardons.

  10. JDX Gold badge

    Surely if he was guilty under the laws then, he cannot be pardoned? If you start changing laws retrospectively, anyone convicted could start demanding damages.

    An apology is appropriate, in my eyes. But none of this should be because of his importance or what he did for his country. Forgiving "important gays" only is crazy.

    1. David Hicks

      Uh... but that's what a pardon is, if he wasn't guilty under that law then there would be no need for a pardon, would there?

  11. Phil W

    Genuine Question

    A genuine question which I cannot find the answer to.

    Are those who lead, and fought in, the American revolutionary war guilty of treason under UK law, and were they ever pardoned?

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Genuine Question

      There's a bit about it here:

      "George III of Great Britain had declared American forces traitors in 1775, which denied them prisoner of war status. However, British strategy in the early conflict included pursuit of a negotiated settlement and therefore officials declined to try and/or hang them, the usual procedure for treason, to avoid unnecessarily risking any public sympathy the British might have enjoyed in the Americas."

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Genuine Question

        Inventing laws so enemy combatants are not considered POWs. Crazy stuff. I guess it's lucky that no one pulls that sort of nonsense today.

    2. Richard 120

      Re: Genuine Question

      I expect that yes they were guilty of treason under UK law, I am only guessing, but I would imagine the point is moot as when they won they were no longer subject to UK law, no need to pardon them.

  12. Jaybus

    To what point?

    What, exactly, is the point of pardoning a dead man? They should take a clue from Pope John Paul II and just issue an official blanket apology for the atrocities of their predecessors. Rather than apologize for having burned Giordano Bruno specifically, he apologized for the many people burned at the stake by his predecessors for not agreeing with idiotic notions such as the Earth being the center of the universe. Is the forced chemical castration of Turing as barbaric as the burning at the stake of Bruno? I suppose it is a matter of opinion, but it must at least be a close second. Certainly it is worse than the imprisonment of Galileo. In any case, a blanket apology made just 60 years after the atrocities would seem much more timely than the nearly 400 years it took to wrest an apology out of the Catholic Church.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Poor Catholics

      always pilloried as ignorant and dumb. Don't forget it was a pope who asked Copernicus to sort out the problems with a calendar, and who was happy with the end result.

      And until Galileo did his impersonation of a 16th Century Assange, the church was quite involved in science, in a good way. Unfortunately (and ironically) they had this nasty niggling need for PROOF. Something which Galileo was unable to provide, because he hadn't done the maths (which had yet to be invented). The real ding-dong started when Galileo went public, called the church liars and couldn't back up his claims.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Ben Glanton

        Re: Poor Catholics

        >Something which Galileo was unable to provide, because he hadn't done the maths (which had yet to be

        > invented).

        Well that's not quite the case - the math's had been done by then. The nice thing for the science camp there was that their models won by starting to advance falsifiable hypotheses - and to impossible such hypthesis on the then classical models. Better yet one of these - the phases of Mercury and Venus was clearly verifiable or fallsifiable to anyone with a simple telescope and some time. The pattern of light cast on the planets by a sun that orbitted the earth was very different from a heliocentric pattern. Happily the telescope was invented right about then and Galileo was exactly the sort of smart guy to improve it into a thoroughly useful instrument.

        Galileo didn't formalise the scientific method, but he's at the start of a tidal wave of leaning that last to this day. Pope Urban VIII can be accused of doing back on his word to his mate (he went to the same University as Galielo) that Galileo could publish the result of his work. In disclosure though the report in question took 2+ decades to come out and the 30 years war was a significant factor by then.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Poor Catholics

          only after Galileo went back on *his* word to state that the heliocentric model was a hypothesis - which it was at the time.

          I think the OP was correct to liken Galileo to Assange. The problem was he was up against a pope who could be likened to Stalin ... it was never going to end well.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pardon me!?

    He shouldn't be pardoned, because he comitted no crime.

    Instead, his conviction was a crime against humanity and this conviction (and any similar) should be overturned retroactively.

    If you say "but back then it _was_ against the law" then you're also allowing the argument that "back then, killing people in Concentration Camps was within the law and those who did that should not have been prosecuted after the war".*

    Overturning the conviction would not at all erase the memory of Turing's mistreatment, the cause for his suicide will still be mentioned in every history book.

    (* I think Godwin's Law has already been invoked ...)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Pardon me!?

      Ah, you beat me to it.

    2. Wang N Staines

      Re: Pardon me!?

      That's not true.

      Killing people wherever has always been against national & international laws.

      There was/is also the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners etc...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pardon me!?

        Yes, killing people on purpose has always been a crime against humanity, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a German law from 1933-1945 that lists sanctions for inhumane treatment of Concentration Camp inmates.

        Let's look at it from the other side: trying to kill Hitler was certainly verboten under contemporary law, yet after the war Stauffenberg has been hyped into a hero by German government.

        As to the Geneva convention: during WW2 it only covered prisoners of war, i.e. captured members of the enemies' armed forces. Only in 1949 the convention was modified to extend protection to all prisoners, even those from within your own population.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    I think the idea of "pardoning" someone for a conviction for being homosexual is a disgrace.

    I realise that it is has a narrow legal meaning, but it sounds tantamount to saying 'We'll let you off this time'.

    I would much prefer, 'We're sorry for an ignorant, stupid, cruel law and we would like to make amends.'

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once we open retro-legal pandora box, we'll end up with the Turing test that will be about the computer successfully pretending he's gay

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Noooo let homosexual men (not women) be burned in hell.....

    So when that cosmically irradiated zombie, who has been flying around the world in low earth orbit for the last 2000 years, decides to fire his retrorockets, and come in on a hot reentry to punish the sinners...

    Ooooooo the ultra dry dessicated corpse caught fire and well there goes several thousand years of magical myths and legends.


    Oh I forgot - they didn't have rockets back then did they.


    Broadcast Date: Sunday 9 September 2007

    Channel: Free to Air / SBS

    Broadcast Time: 7.30 pm

    Classifications: Drama, PG (CC) WS

    Timeslot Duration: 60 mins


    The notion of the devil does not originate in the Bible, as many may think. In the Old Testament, Satan is just another one of God's servants.

    It is in Iran that the religious teacher Zarathustra simplified things, ending up with only two - a God of the Good and a God of Evil. This belief then spread throughout the Middle East.

    In the Jewish world, Satan, God's obedient servant, was gradually replaced by Saden, God's eternal enemy.

    The Greeks had an underworld called Hades. It didn't have fire, but the valley outside Jerusalem, called Hell, did. In Hebrew it was known as Gehenna, a smouldering rubbish heap to which fire was regularly set. That is where bodies of executed criminals were burned.

    Gehenna was the inspiration for the Christian hell. (From Ireland, in English) (Documentary)

  17. John 156

    What is extraordinary is the way the British state failed to acknowledge or recognise the war work of Turing and others, prefering to trash their equipment and turn the whole thing into a state secret in case foreign spies were alerted, as though scientific advance can become frozen by ordinance. Meanwhile, over in the USA, Werner von Braun was assisting the American rocketry programme.

    The sins of those considered valuable to the state are normally hidden. The Turing episode demonstrated that techies were not valued, even if their gifts were extraordinary, above those mediocrities that continually infest the corridors of power and whose sins are hidden from public view. For example, Edward Heath was a known shirt lifter with a penchant for cottaging, yet he was able to become a totally useless PM.

    It should however be remembered that what caused Turing to kill himself was that the psychiatric profession, which at that time studied the vapourings of Sigmund Freud as part of their 'medical' degrees, were responsible for drugging him with female sex hormones, causing his breats to enlarge and his intellect to shrink (apologises to any female reading that statement). If any case could justify the outlawing of the psychiatric 'profession', the Turing case was it.

    In short, Turing was the victim of the total incomprehension of the ruling elite to the importance of scientific brilliance to the future of this country; that was Turing's and our loss.

    1. Bleu

      Shirt lifter?

      Ooh, ducky, aren't we the charmer!

      Please supply a concise definition and the derivation of 'shirt lifter', as a learner it puzzles me.

      I'm surprised at the emphasis on Bletchly, the concepts of the Turing machine, test of Turing completeness, and the Turing test, in that order, are far more important.

      The only reason a machine will pass the last of those is human stupidity, after all, stupid, lonely, or deranged people gave Eliza a passing grade a good while back.

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        Re: Shirt lifter?

        Is that anything like a skirt lifter?

  18. QA

    Starting an e-petition

    Apart from the Turing case I think that the government's pardoning "policy" is inconsistent. So to that end:

    Currently it is long-standing government policy that pardons under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) should be reserved for cases where it can be established that the convicted person was innocent of the relevant offence, and not to undo the effects of legislation which are now recognised as wrong.

    This is an arcane policy and is, for example, preventing the pardoning of Alan Turing posthumously.

    There must be many other cases where laws have been repealed when they have been seen to be unjust, but where convictions under these laws still stand.

    It seems only right to pardon people when a law gets repealed, and to have a government policy not to use the RPM in these situations is absurd.

    This petition therefore calls for Gov't to change its policy on this matter, so that the RPM can be applied to pardon people convicted of repealed laws. Furthermore, if the policy is derived from legal precedent, to enact specific legislation allowing the policy to be changed as requested above.

    If you agree - vote. If you don't, hard cheese, there doesn't seem to be a no option. Hopefully this should be up in a week or so, so keep your powder dry....

    1. adam 40

      Re: Starting an e-petition

      The petition is now up - so vote if you feel like it...

  19. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Righty-oh then!

    It seems astute El Reg readers/participants are as astute as ever?

    The base principle seems to be: "retrospective pardons" due to the many, the few, the deserved, the undeserved, ...

    And some might even ponder that parliament should not do any stuff retrospectively - imagine the workload on some people's desks were it so?

    But maybe another base principle helps out: parliament is the boss


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never ending story

    He was convicted of a crime which violated the social/moral norm of the time. It's easy to say now, when the social/moral norm has changed to homosexuals benefit that it was wrong but consider crimes that violate the current social/moral norm - what should be done with them? Laws regarding drugs, prostitution and children's sexuality are enforced vigorously but may at some time in future change.

    Moral offenders of today would be pardoned in some future and official apologies be made. A never ending story isn't it?

    One obvious solution is to avoid moral laws all together...

  21. Equitas
    Thumb Down

    Oh, come on! ......

    Let's deal with facts.

    Turing lost his security clearance effectively because he himself was complaining to the police about criminal activity against him on the part of one of his lovers.

    Both he and the lover were also guilty of what was then a criminal offence in the form of homosexual activity.

    Whether or not one agrees that the law at the time was appropriate is not quite the issue -- Turing was at the time a security risk because of his engaging in such activity.

    Turing was given the choice of imprisonment or what was regarded as a soft option -- temporary chemical castration -- temporary feminisation to reduce his libido. He chose the latter, but he had an affair afterwards in spite of the feminisation.

    It was after the end of the temporary feminisation treatment that he committed suicide.

    Changing views of the appropriateness of homosexual activity doesn't alter the fact that Turing was associating with known criminals (unless breaking and entering is also a pardonable activity). Being a known associate of criminals who are engaged in breaking and entering would still be a reason for withdrawing security clearance.

    Nor does changing views of the appropriateness of homosexual activity alter the fact that it was Turing himself who demanded that police implement the then law of the land with regard to breaking and entering.

    Of course he was a brilliant man who did extremely valuable work during the war. Of course he had the potential to do a great deal more. That does not stop him being a known associate of persons engaged in burglary, and an individual at risk from his own known associates in an activity which was, as it happens, then illegal. Nor does it stop him being a man who acted in a way which was somewhat ill-advised -- indeed very foolish from his own point of view in pressing the police to take action.

    1. All names Taken

      Re: Oh, come on! ......

      I know we often appeal to logic but logic really does not determine what becomes human law.

      Natural law is somehow deemed to be something to do with a deity.

      Human law is that crafted and formed by humans often in acceptance of the failings of our humanity?

      And if so, pardoning people retrospectively seems uniquely admirable and gives credence to our human frailties including bad laws or poor laws or just simply daft laws because collectively we are all those sort of things.

      As an aside: were logic supreme then there would only ever be one operating system on one hardware arrangement and updates would never, ever be required?

      Then there are reality...

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