Mixed feelings about the Turing pardon


Alan Turing was not ashamed of being gay and made little or no effort to hide it. In today’s parlance he was “out” – if not to the world then certainly to a large number of people.

I wonder if he would ever have asked for a ‘pardon’ – because his view was certainly he had done nothing that required a pardon.

The other factor, of course, is that thousands of people – many still alive – were prosecuted using the same repressive law under which Turing was victimised. Are they too to be pardoned? Or is it just that a high profile case, involving someone who cannot say anything that causes discomfort in response, is a handy pre-Christmas news sponge?

Update: Andrew Hodges makes the point much better than I can:

“Alan Turing suffered appalling treatment 60 years ago and there has been a very well intended and deeply felt campaign to remedy it in some way. Unfortunately, I cannot feel that such a ‘pardon’ embodies any good legal principle. If anything, it suggests that a sufficiently valuable individual should be above the law which applies to everyone else.

“It’s far more important that in the 30 years since I brought the story to public attention, LGBT rights movements have succeeded with a complete change in the law – for all. So, for me, this symbolic action adds nothing.

“A more substantial action would be the release of files on Turing’s secret work for GCHQ in the cold war. Loss of security clearance, state distrust and surveillance may have been crucial factors in the two years leading up to his death in 1954.”