Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Alan Turing: Pardon?

• Like the Guardian (Editorial, 3 February), I support a pardon for Alan Turing's conviction for a homosexual offence. However, I do not think he should be pardoned because, as you imply, he was a great intellectual whose contribution to our victory over Nazism saved countless lives. For this achievement, he deserves the highest honour. But he should be pardoned because the illegality of homosexual acts was a clear breach of his human rights. This principle applies to all those similarly convicted. What is needed is a short act of parliament granting pardon to all such individuals.
Eric Deakins

Letter to The Guardian.

It looks like the government will reject the calls to pardon Alan Turing, using something called "the precedent test".
Lord McNally told the Lords on Monday night; "The question of granting a posthumous pardon to Mr Turing was considered by the previous Government in 2009.
"As a result of the previous campaign, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an unequivocal posthumous apology to Mr Turing on behalf of the Government, describing his treatment as "horrifying" and "utterly unfair". Mr Brown said the country owed him a huge debt. This apology was also shown at the end of the Channel 4 documentary celebrating Mr Turing's life and achievements which was broadcast on 21 November 2011.
"A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted..."
The Guardian quotes American mathematician Dennis Hejhal, who echoes the sentiments in the letter above; "i see that the House of Lords rejected the pardon Feb 6 on what are formal grounds.
"if law is X on date D, and you knowingly break law X on date D, then you cannot be pardoned (no matter how wrong or flawed law X is).
"the real reason is OBVIOUS. they do not want thousands of old men saying pardon us too.
"i hope there is an appropriate hullabaloo in the UK."
It's so satisfying to see there are so many events organised around the world to mark Alan Turing Year, but I've never been quite sure what pardoning Turing would achieve, beyond being "nice" - but maybe that's just me.
The e-petition is still open - here it is, clicktivists.


  1. The next time the Nazis invade, I will be refusing to invent a single computer in protest.

  2. Just a few more signatures and this will be the top ten