Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
Maths genius Alan Turing, who was credited with shortening the Second World War and saving thousands of lives by cracking German submarine codes, has been given a Royal pardon. He was convicted in 1952 of ‘gross indecency’ – a charge which applied to any kind of homosexual activity. He was punished by being chemically castrated.
Because his work was top secret, he was unable to explain why he should be given leniency, and his conviction meant his security clearance was revoked. He died two years later from cyanide poisoning, with an inquest deciding that he had committed suicide. However, some dispute the finding and suggest his death was an accident.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told the BBC: ‘I pay tribute to the government for ensuring Alan Turing has a royal pardon at last.’
He continued: ‘At least 50,000 other men were convicted under the same law. They have never been offered a pardon and will never get one. Selective redress is a bad way to remedy a historic injustice; an estimated 15,000 men convicted of the same offence as Alan Turing are still alive.
‘An apology and pardon is due to the other 50,000-plus men who were also convicted of consenting, victimless homosexual relationships during the twentieth century. These men were criminalised for consenting behaviour that was not a crime between heterosexual men and women.
Royal pardon for Alan #Turing for gay sex. Good! What about the 50,000+ other men convicted of the same consenting, victimless gay offence?
— Peter Tatchell Fdn (@PT_Foundation) December 24, 2013
Being pardoned for a crime does not mean that they did not commit the crime and does not affect the fact that they were convicted of it; it merely means that they are forgiven, and that the penalty is cancelled.
"Overturn a conviction" sounds a lot better than "pardon". "Pardon" implies that #Turing did something wrong in the first place.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) December 24, 2013
Then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official apology in 2009, who said the way Turing was persecuted over his sexuality was ‘appalling’.
Turing was convicted under the same ‘gross indecency’ law that sent Oscar Wilde to prison in 1895. It remained on the statute book until 2003, classified in the penal code under the heading ‘unnatural offences’. Likewise, the law against ‘buggery’, which was legislated in 1533 during the reign of King Henry VIII, was not repealed until 2003
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