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Alan Turing to receive a pardon nearly 60 years after death

Alan Turing to receive a pardon nearly 60 years after death

Alan Turing, known as the father of computer science, the codebreaker that helped win World War 2, and the man tortured by the state for being gay, is to receive a pardon nearly 60 years after his death.

On Friday (19 July), the government said they were prepared to support a backbench bill pardoning the war hero.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a government whip, said the third reading of the Alan Turing (statutory pardon) bill will take place at the end of October.

He said: ‘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.

‘The government are very aware of the calls to pardon Turing, given his outstanding achievements, and have great sympathy with this objective.’

In World War 2, Turing broke Adolf Hitler’s Enigma codes thus shortening it by up to two years. Hundreds of thousands of lives were likely saved because of Turing.

After the war in 1952 Turing was prosecuted for being gay. He was forced to undergo reparative therapy to try to cure his sexuality, and accepted chemical castration as an alternative to prison.

He is believed to have committed suicide two years later; after it was found he died from cyanide poisoning.

While Turing is to receive the pardon, he is just one of 49,000 gay men, now dead, who were convicted for homosexuality. They include poet, wit and playwright Oscar Wilde.

Ben Summerskill, the director of gay rights charity Stonewall, said pardoning Turing was a ‘pointless exercise’.

Writing in The Observer, he said: ‘A more proper apologia might be to ensure that Turing’s achievements, and his treatment by the nation that benefited, are included in every pupil’s school curriculum.’

Sadiq Khan, member of parliament and Labour’s Shadow Minister for London, wrote in a GSN comment piece last year saying the UK government had ‘unfinished business’ and had to pardon Turing.

He said: ‘One hundred years on from his birth, it is time for us to correct the historical wrong. I have listened to the arguments of all sides about whether a pardon would be legal.

‘It would be a fitting tribute in this centenary year of Alan Turing’s birth for the government to grant him a pardon.’