‘Acknowledging the debt we owe’: Bill to pardon Manchester’s code-breaker Alan Turing goes to House of Lords

By Mary Maguire & Mihaela Ivantcheva

A bill to pardon ‘wrongly persecuted’ Manchester mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing for acts of ‘gross indecency’ was introduced to House of Lords yesterday.

Liberal Democrat Lord Sharkey and John Leech MP have joined forces to pursue the pardon for Turing, who was chemically castrated for being gay.

Lord Sharkey yesterday introduced a Private Members Bill to the House of Lords, which, if it becomes law, will grant a long-awaited pardon to Dr Turing. 

Withington MP Leech has led a campaign to grant a posthumous pardon to Turing who was convicted for ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 after admitting to a relationship with another man.

Leech said: “It’s only right that we acknowledge the government at the time was wrong and justice can be brought to Alan Turing who was wrongly persecuted.”

Turing was a key code-breaker with the Enigma team at Government intelligence headquarters at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Despite being credited with cracking the encryption code which brought the war to an end, Turing ‘gross indecency’ conviction was at a point when homosexuality was still a criminal offence.

Lord Sharkey said: “Alan Turing helped save this country. His work on cracking the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park during World War II undoubtedly changed the course of the war and saved many thousands of lives.

“But instead of being rewarded by his country, he was cruelly punished and convicted simply for being gay.  If my Bill becomes law, as I hope it will, then this will finally go some way towards acknowledging the debt we all owe to Alan Turing and grant him the free pardon he so clearly deserves.”

When he was convicted, Turing accepted chemical castration over being sent to prison.

He was found dead at his home in 1954.  An inquest ruled that he had poisoned himself with cyanide.

However, these findings were questioned by Turing expert Prof Jack Copeland last month.

He argues that the evidence presented at that time would not today be sufficient to establish a suicide verdict.

In 2009 former Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official apology to Turing’s family calling the treatment he had received ‘appalling and utterly unfair’.

Talking to MM in an earlier interview Mr Leech said: “The most important thing that Alan Turing did was his work during World War II and he should be remembered for that and that only, not for what went on in his private life.”

Justice Minister Lord McNally said: “A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted.”

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