Alan Turing

On the 24th December 2013, while the rest of us were preparing for Christmas, a man who once lived in Hampton was pardoned for a crime of the heart.

Under the terms of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, the WW2 code-breaker and computer scientist Alan Turing, previously convicted for ‘homosexual activity,’ was granted a posthumous pardon by the Queen. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said…

“Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind. His brilliance was put into practise at Bletchley Park during the second world war, where he was pivotal to breaking the Enigma code, helping to end the war and save thousands of lives.”

As has been said many times before we used to do things differently in the past. In my own lifetime it was considered perfectly acceptable to foster orphans and unwanted children out to Canada and Australia. We would hang those found guilty of murder – and occasionally those who were later proved to be innocent – and regard homosexuals as criminal deviants and subversives. In 1953 Alan Turing was convicted for homosexual activity and ‘chemically castrated’. Stripped of his security clearance, prevented from working at the government’s top secret cipher centre, GCHQ, and hounded by the police Alan Turing apparently committed suicide by cyanide poisoning in 1954, aged 41.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said Turing’s pardon was long overdue but regretted that it was not extended to include “the 50,000-plus men who were also convicted of consenting victimless homosexual relationships during the 20th century.”

In a salute to them and all those who have faced homophobia, discrimination and hatred over the years, here is an article about Alan Turing originally published in these pages on 21st May 2009.

— from Martyn Day