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Alan Turing receives Royal Pardon

It was announced this morning that mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing has been posthumously granted a pardon for his conviction in 1952 for gross indecency. The pardon is issued under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen, after intervention from justice secretary Chris Grayling. The conviction was at the time standard for persons found to be practising homosexuals, and was applied to more than 50,000 cases. Turing’s punishment was chemical castration, although many others in his situation were sent to prison. A formal apology to Turing was issued by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009, and the debate around whether to grant a pardon has continued since (as reported in many news stories on this site). As long ago as February 2012 we posted a link to a podcast discussing the issue, with a summary of the arguments for and against a pardon, which had then been the subject of an early day motion in parliament issued by John Leech MP, and a popular online petition. A round-up of the situation has been posted by David Allen Green at the New Statesman. While the general consensus in the press is that this pardon is a positive step and long overdue, it is also argued that Turing should not be singled out for special treatment simply because of his inarguably huge contribution to the war effort, and to science in general. It does increase the profile of this issue to have someone so well-known and whose story is so engaging at the forefront of discussion, although he was by no means the only person who suffered such pain and humiliation as a result of this, now defunct, legislation. Gay rights advocate Peter Tatchell sums this up in a post written shortly after the official apology in 2009, and many including Astronomer Royal Lord Rees have commented along similar lines:

“This is welcome news, though it might have been even better as part of a general pardon for all who have criminal records for the same reason.”

More information

Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing at BBC News. Putting right the wrong done to Alan Turing – a big long round-up of the situation by David Allen Green for The New Statesman. Alan Turing pardon should apply to all homosexuals, say campaigners at The Telegraph The official pardon.

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