We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of 'gross indecency'. [...] A pardon can go to some way to healing this damage. It may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws.Regular readers will know that I was the person behind the 2009 Alan Turing apology petition that resulted in the government apology. It's understandable that people have today been asking me what I think about this current campaign.
I think it's a mistake.
Firstly, in recent years the British government pardoned the soldiers who were executed for cowardice or desertion during the First World War. The pardon came about because of campaigning by the soldiers' families and because there was serious doubt that these boys and men were actually cowardly. They were most likely suffering from shell-shock and other traumatic stress. In Turing's case there's really no argument that he simply broke the law. There aren't any circumstances that change that. The law itself was awful (hence my campaign), but it's not clear to me that a pardon is appropriate.
Secondly, even if a pardon is appropriate, a pardon for simply Turing would be unjust to the other gay men who suffered under the law. There were many, many others. And there are men alive today living in Britain with a criminal record because of offenses committed during the time the laws were in force. I could get behind a petition for a pardon for all those people, especially since living people are still hurt by that law, but not just for Turing. Pardoning him doesn't help the living.
But even that's unnecessary. Subsequent to the 2009 apology campaign the UK government introduced legislation that actually does roll back the criminal convictions of gay men. The Protection of Freedoms bill has already passed all stages in the House of Commons, two readings in the House of Lords and enters (this coming Monday) committee stage. That means it's close to being law.
Chapter 4 of that Act 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.
So, while I'm sure the current campaign is a heartfelt attempt to express utter outrage at what happened to Alan Turing, I can't support it.