Codebreaker Turing set to get posthumous pardon

Alan Turing
Alan Turing

WARTIME codebreaker Alan Turing is set to be posthumously pardoned for his conviction for homosexuality.

On Friday (July 19) in the House of Lords, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said the Government would not stand in the way of a Bill brought in by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey last year, which offers the mathematician a full parliamentary pardon.

Mr Turing, who was educated at St Michael’s School in Charles Road, St Leonards until he was 14, studied maths at King’s College, Cambridge.

He helped Britain and its allies win the Second World War through his work at Bletchley Park, by inventing the machine which cracked the Enigma codes used by German U-boats.

But in 1952 he was convicted of gross indecency following a relationship with another man and underwent hormonal treatment as an alternative to prison.

As a result Mr Turing committed suicide in 1954 by swallowing cyanide.

He received a posthumous apology in 2009 from the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown who labelled the treatment he got as ‘utterly unfair and appalling’.

Before Lord Sharkey’s Bill was introduced last year, a campaign, backed by supporters in Hastings, to grant Mr Turing a pardon for his conviction was rejected by the Government, despite an online petition with more than 23,000 signatures.

On Friday Lord Ahmad said: “The Government is very aware of the calls to pardon Mr Turing, given his outstanding achievements, and has great sympathy with this objective.

“That is why the Government believes 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.”

He said the Bill could be passed in the House of Commons as early as October if there are no amendments. Barbara Martin, spokeswoman and trustee for Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance, said: “We are delighted that this pardon is going to be granted and we would like to see it extended to other people who suffered similar unjustified treatment at the time.”