The British Queen has granted a posthumous royal pardon to Alan Turing. I can’t help feeling that this is not right; it is sending entirely the wrong message.
I agreed wholeheartedly with the petition raised a few years ago for him to receive a posthumous formal apology from the British Government. And I was delighted when the apology was made.
However, a Royal Pardon is quite a different thing. It is saying, in effect, that the Queen and country forgives Turing for the crime of being homosexual because he was such a brilliant man and for his contribution to the war effort. Well, I’m sorry, so he gets his pardon while thousands of other men convicted for the same “crime” do not, simply because they don’t happen to be geniuses or their contributions to the war effort is somehow deemed insufficient? Some of these men are still alive. I wonder how they must be feeling at the moment, with their criminal records still intact?
If Turing is going to get a Royal Pardon, then it should be simply because he did nothing wrong, and the same pardon should be granted to an estimated 75,000 other men whose lives were wrecked by the insidious legislation that existed at the time.
As Ally Fogg writes:
It is shocking to realise that there are still people alive today who were unjustly criminalised in their youth, and who have carried the stain of a criminal record, as a sex offender, through almost their entire adult lives. In 2012 the Protection of Freedoms Act was passed, which allows those who were convicted of homosexuality offences to apply to have their entire criminal records removed if the facts of the case would no longer count as a crime.
As the legal commentator David Allen Green has pointed out, there is no reason why this provision could not be extended to cover all those convicted, whether living or dead, without the requirement for a personal application. With a little bit of political marketing, it could become known as the Turing law, recorded as such in the history books for generations to come. Now that really would be a fitting tribute to a national hero.