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Bletchley Park’s Alan Turing to receive posthumous pardon

Was convicted under anti-homosexuality legislation
Mon Jul 22 2013, 14:48
Alan Turing was born in 1912 and is heralded as the father of modern computing

IT LOOKS LIKELY that computer and codebreaking genius Alan Turing will get the government pardon that he deserves.

Turing was a key member of the team at the British government codebreaking operation known as Bletchley Park that cracked the German Enigma code during World War Two. He was also a homosexual and was convicted of gross indecency under the anti-homosexuality legislation of the Victorian era.

Turing was 41 when he took a cyanide pill and ended his life in 1954. Now government whip Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon has said that the coalition government will not oppose a pardon for Turing.

A private member's bill promoted by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey has been given a second reading in Parliament. Sharkey said that Turing was responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

"Turing led the way in cracking the Enigma code. This alone probably turned the Battle of the Atlantic. Respected commentators estimate that this shortened the war by two years, saving many, many thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of lives. This was Turing's work. Turing is also one of the fathers, if not the father, of computer science," he said.

"Every time anyone, anywhere, uses a computer for any purpose there is a kind of debt to Turing. And Turing was treated with terrible cruelty."

Turing was convicted thanks to the Criminal Law Amendment Act, a law that also saw Oscar Wilde imprisoned.

Sharkey said that a four minute Commons discussion at the time had added a penalty to the crime of being a homosexual, and that 75,000 men were convicted under it.

"Alan Turing himself believed that homosexual activity would be made legal by a royal commission. In fact, appropriately, it was Parliament which decriminalised the activity for which he was convicted," said Ahmad as he spoke about how the Commons would happily support positive results from the Lords.

"The Government are very aware of the calls to pardon Turing, given his outstanding achievements, and have great sympathy with this objective, and with the objectives of my noble friend's Bill," he added.

"That is why the Government believe it is right that Parliament should be free to respond to this Bill in whatever way its conscience dictates and in whatever way it so wills... If nobody tables an amendment to this Bill, its supporters can be assured that it will have speedy passage to the House of Commons." µ


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