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.
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.
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