Turing fight goes to Lords

Alan Turing
Alan Turing

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to get a posthumous pardon for a code-breaking genius have taken their fight to the House of Lords.

Alan Turing, who went to school in St Leonards, worked on breaking German codes at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. He died from cyanide poisoning after being convicted of gross indecency in 1952 when homosexual acts were illegal. An inquest at the time said he committed suicide.

A Private Members’ Bill to grant the computer pioneer a pardon has been introduced in the Lords by Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Sharkey.

John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington, is backing the campaign and said he would take the Bill through the House of Commons to make it law.

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.

His paper On Computable Numbers would prove fundamental to the development of modern computing.

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 of his treatment, 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’.

Earlier this year though, 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.

But in June an academic called for the inquest into Mr Turing’s death to be reopened, believing the maths genius may not have taken his own life.

Professor Jack Copeland, director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing, said evidence was ‘overlooked’ in 1954.

He added that Mr Turing could have died as a result of inhaling cyanide he used in amateur experiments accidentally, rather than deliberately ingesting it.

A plaque was unveiled by Mayor Alan Roberts at Mr Turing’s former home in Upper Maze Hill, St Leonards, on June 26 as part of a celebration on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Barbara Martin, trustee at Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance, said: “We welcome the initiative to pardon Alan Turing at the House of Lords. It would send out a clear message that the present Government recognises LGBT people have been unjustly persecuted in the past and show a commitment to support their rights in the present.”