Queen Elizabeth pardons Turing (but not the 50,000 other gay men the law unjustly criminalised)


Alan Turing has received a pardon under the "Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen," 61 years after he was "chemically castrated" by court order as punishment for homosexuality. Less than two years of forced hormone treatments drove him to suicide at the age of 41. The pardon came at the request of the government's justice secretary. It's a wonderful vindication of Turing.

But I agree with Turing's biographer Dr Andrew Hodges, who says that the idea of a pardon for Turing establishes the principal that "a sufficiently valuable individual should be above the law which applies to everyone else." In my view, the Queen should have pardoned every man and woman persecuted under the cruel and unjust law that ruined so many lives.

But I'll take Turing. For now. And if Stephen Fry gets his wish and we get Turing on a bank note, I'll frame one and hang it in my office.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey, who introduced the private member's bill in the House of Lords, said: "This has demonstrated wisdom and compassion. It has recognised a very great British hero and made some amends for the cruelty and injustice with which Turing was treated.

"It's a wonderful thing, but we are not quite finished yet. I will continue to campaign for all those convicted as Turing was, simply for being gay, to have their convictions disregarded. That will be a proper and fitting and final end to the Turing story."

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the royal pardon was long overdue, but also due to "another 50,000-plus men who were also convicted of consenting, victimless homosexual relationships during the 20th century".

Though an inquest recorded a verdict of suicide, Turing's mother and others maintained his death was accidental.

Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing receives royal pardon [Caroline Davies/The Guardian]

(Image: Alan Turing, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from joncallas's photostream)

Notable Replies

  1. What are the legal implications of issuing 50,000 pardons, does anyone actually know? I would have thought they would have to review every case, but I'm not up with the pardoning procedure in the UK.

    Let's just raise a glass to Alan Turing anyway.

  2. Awesome! This way, the United Kingdom can take full credit for Turing's greatness, without a shred of guilt over that whole hounding-him-to-his-death thing!

  3. i like Gordon Brown's apology better. It acknowledges both that the man was a genius that was more or less responsible for the digital age, yet while it went on about how terrible and unjust his treatment was he did break the law of the time no matter how back assward and criminal said law was.

    The government is 'forgiving' turing? I do believe something is rather backward here. Even though Turing did break the law of the day he is not the one that needs forgiveness.

    That said. I personally do not forgive the government for what they did. I see this as an attempt at trying for cheap PR points and a quick whitewash of history. Plus as is mentioned in the title what of the thousands of others that had their lives ruined and or ended as a result of the same law Turing broke by being homosexual in england?

    Set up a trust or some group to give out reparation funds to different organizations that deal in hate crimes, LGBT support groups, and so on their names. It will not bring back the dead, and most assuredly many of the people convicted would already be dead of natural causes anyway (including Turing himself) but then again if they're looking for good will that would be a better start.

  4. ...because of course; thank you, BBC. Turing died of natural causes, if by natural you mean public humiliation and mad science in lieu of justice.

    For the record, I'm American, so I can't be too much of a jerk here. But my government is guilty of equal amounts of douchery, just around different subjects.

  5. Guilt of the government is not always guilt of the citizen- bad things should be condemned as bad, even if it's an easy notion like this that chemically castrating anyone is a pretty ridiculous punishment. We don't even do that to rapists.

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