As was hinted at in a debate in Parliament to mark the centenary of Turing’s birth, a private members’ bill has been introduced in the House of Lords seeking a pardon for Turing – and Turing alone – for his conviction of gross indecency when homosexual acts were illegal in the UK.
The bill has been introduced by Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Sharkey, and the BBC reports that the Lib Dem MP John Leech has said he will take the bill through the House of Commons to make it law.
The Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill is summarised on the Parliament website:
To give a statutory pardon to Alan Mathison Turing for offences under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 of which he was convicted on 31 March 1952.
Meanwhile, the relevant e-petition has surpassed 35,000 signatures.
Source: Alan Turing pardon campaign goes to House of Lords on BBC News.
More information: Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill on parliament.uk with debate schedule.
Last Thursday a debate about the Turing pardon took place in Parliament. The MKNews website carries a report on the debate, which seems to be a rehashing of Turing’s value and the case for a pardon, including the recent suggestion of extending the new Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 to posthumous cases. The report also includes a suggestion of a special law, in light of the fear of setting a legal precedent, that would specifically clear Turing’s conviction alone. If you’re interest in the full detail, a link to the Hansard record for the debate is given below. You can also watch a video via the link given.
Source: Special report: Alan Turing debated in Parliament.
Hansard: 27 Jun 2012 : Column 108WH.
Video: Centenary of the birth of Alan Turing – Dr Julian Huppert.
A report on the MK [Milton Keynes] NEWS website offers support for the campaign of Iain Stewart MP “in his efforts to have Alan Turing’s conviction for homosexuality quashed”.
In a piece for Travels in a Mathematical World I wrote about the Turing pardon and the prospect of a new piece of legislation which, according to John Graham-Cumming, “specifically allows for the disregarding of convictions under the old law that was used against Turing”. The new development in the MK News piece refers to this legislation:
The recently-passed Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 allows a person who has been convicted or received a caution for an offence under sections 12 or 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 to apply to have this ‘disregarded’.
These are the same offences for which Turing was convicted and Mr Stewart wants this disregard to be applied posthumously.
So the focus seems to have moved from a pardon, which the Government refused to do, to having the conviction posthumously disregarded under chapter four of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (which, if I’m reading it correctly, seems to allow for the person convicted to apply themselves to have their conviction disregarded).
Source: Add your voice to clear a war hero.
One of the reasons given against a pardon for Alan Turing in a November 2011 blog post by John Graham-Cumming (who successfully campaigned for a Turing apology in 2009) was that the Protection of Freedoms bill, if passed, would make a pardon unnecessary. This is because this
specifically allows for the disregarding of convictions under the old law that was used against Turing. Once disregarded the law causes their convictions to be deleted. It’s not quite the same thing as a pardon, but its effect is to lift the burden of a criminal record from these living men.
Now the bill has gained Royal Assent, becoming the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. A short piece in The Independent calls this “a freedom too late” for Alan Turing. The Turing pardon e-petition now has over 33,000 signatures.
Source: Protection of Freedoms Bill.
A conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from Pulse-Project.org. This week Samuel and Peter spoke about: Every odd integer larger than 1 is the sum of at most five primes; No pardon for Alan Turing; more super bowl math; Early results from the Met Office weather game; Trends in Race/Ethnicity and Gender Representation in the Mathematical Sciences; Wolfram|Alpha Pro; more on Elsevier boycott; & more.
Download or stream via pulse-project.org.
Subscribe via Math/Maths on iTunes or Math/Maths RSS feed.
A government minister in the Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally, in response to a question from Lord Sharkey on Thursday 2nd February 2012 made a statement in the House or Lords that “a posthumous pardon [for Alan Turing] was not considered appropriate”.
The statement acknowledges that the offence of which Turing was convicted “now seems both cruel and absurd” but says that Turing “would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted”. This says that the:
long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.
Back when the pardon petition was launched in November 2011, John Graham-Cumming, the man responsible for the Turing apology petition in 2009, wrote a blog post explaining why he did not support the pardon petition: Why I’m not supporting the campaign for a pardon for Alan Turing (26 November 2011).
On the Math/Maths Podcast this week Samuel Hansen spoke convincingly about a pardon, above an apology, as having the effect of removing the conviction, not merely apologising for it. Graham-Cumming points to the Protection of Freedoms bill, currently passing through the House of Lords, which:
specifically allows for the disregarding of convictions under the old law that was used against Turing. Once disregarded the law causes their convictions to be deleted. It’s not quite the same thing as a pardon, but its effect is to lift the burden of a criminal record from these living men [those who are "still hurt by that law"].
John Leech MP, on his blog, reports having submitted an Early Day Motion (EDM) to Parliament calling for a pardon for Alan Turing.
The Parliament website defines EDMs:
Early day motions (EDMs) are tabled by MPs to publicise a particular event or cause, and to gather support among MPs for that event or cause. MPs demonstrate their support for an EDM by signing the motion.
Gordon Brown issued a Government apology in 2009 for the way Turing was treated following a conviction of gross indecency in 1952. A pardon would go further. In his blog post, John Leech reports that the EDM is “prompted by a petition on the Downing Street web page”. This e-petition calls for a pardon to go “some way to healing” the damage caused by the circumstances of Turing’s death, in recognition of the work Turing did, and to “act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws”.
The full text of the petition is available on the Downing Street website and the full text of the EDM is on John Leech’s blog.
John Leech MP: Alan Turing should be pardoned (31 January 2012).
e-petition: Grant a pardon to Alan Turing.
BBC: PM apology after Turing petition (2009).
Parliament: Early Day Motions.