Queen Elizabeth pardons Turing (but not the 50,000 other gay men the law unjustly criminalised)



What are the legal implications of issuing 50,000 pardons, does anyone actually know? I would have thought they would have to review every case, but I’m not up with the pardoning procedure in the UK.

Let’s just raise a glass to Alan Turing anyway.


Well, in the case where a law is struck down as being unjust, I don’t think you should have to review the specifics of every case tried under that law. If they were found guilty of a “crime” that is later determined not to be a crime, what’s to review?

It seems odd to pardon him rather than clearing him of wrongdoing, although I suppose he was technically guilty according to the laws of the time. An admission that the government and laws of the time were clearly in the wrong would seem to be more appropriate, in any case.

Edit: I’d actually forgotton that the official apology was given four years ago: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/gordon-brown/6170112/Gordon-Brown-Im-proud-to-say-sorry-to-a-real-war-hero.html


Today the Sovereign only grants pardons upon the advice of her ministers: currently they are the Secretary of State for Justice, for England and Wales, the First Minister of Scotland, or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State for Defence is responsible for military cases.

It is the standard policy of the Government to only grant pardons to those who are considered “morally” innocent of the offence, as opposed to those who may have been wrongly convicted by a misapplication of the law. Pardons are generally no longer issued prior to a conviction, but only after the conviction.

The use of the Royal prerogative of mercy is now a rare occurrence, given that the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission are now avenues to statutory remedies against miscarriages of justice.

Therefore, the grant of pardons is now very rare occurrence indeed, and the vast majority of acknowledged miscarriages of justice were decided upon by the courts. During the Birmingham Six case, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd stressed that he could only make the decision for a pardon if he was “convinced of [their] innocence”, which at the time he was not.

My point is just, there is not much point discussing it without actually knowing what the legal procedure is, which I certainly don’t.

1 Like

Awesome! This way, the United Kingdom can take full credit for Turing’s greatness, without a shred of guilt over that whole hounding-him-to-his-death thing!


i like Gordon Brown’s apology better. It acknowledges both that the man was a genius that was more or less responsible for the digital age, yet while it went on about how terrible and unjust his treatment was he did break the law of the time no matter how back assward and criminal said law was.

The government is ‘forgiving’ turing? I do believe something is rather backward here. Even though Turing did break the law of the day he is not the one that needs forgiveness.

That said. I personally do not forgive the government for what they did. I see this as an attempt at trying for cheap PR points and a quick whitewash of history. Plus as is mentioned in the title what of the thousands of others that had their lives ruined and or ended as a result of the same law Turing broke by being homosexual in england?

Set up a trust or some group to give out reparation funds to different organizations that deal in hate crimes, LGBT support groups, and so on their names. It will not bring back the dead, and most assuredly many of the people convicted would already be dead of natural causes anyway (including Turing himself) but then again if they’re looking for good will that would be a better start.


Turing’s treatment by the UK was deplorable, but here’s a piece from the BBC that makes a pretty good argument that the suicide thing may be a myth.


…because of course; thank you, BBC. Turing died of natural causes, if by natural you mean public humiliation and mad science in lieu of justice.

For the record, I’m American, so I can’t be too much of a jerk here. But my government is guilty of equal amounts of douchery, just around different subjects.


Guilt of the government is not always guilt of the citizen- bad things should be condemned as bad, even if it’s an easy notion like this that chemically castrating anyone is a pretty ridiculous punishment. We don’t even do that to rapists.


All of our governments have done a ton of shitty things in the past. Apologies are a good start, pardons wouldn’t be terrible either.

Think of all the children hung for petty theft in Dickensian times. I’m definitely on the side of ‘that was unjust and wrong’. I’m not sure an apology or a pardon is going to do much about it though, since the laws have changed and everyone involved is already dead.

I’m glad the apology was done a couple of years ago, and I’m glad the Queen did the pardon thing. Brits seem to have a thing for their monarchy, so maybe is has some value.

1 Like

There’s actually a new – maybe worse – indignity in the article: Jack Copeland suggests that Turing was essentially framed for suicide (also illegal then, I think) by the coroner, who said, “In a man of his type, one never knows what his mental processes are going to do next.”

I prefer to think that, as the article describes, Turing coped with teh gay treatment by the gov’t by recognizing it for the farce that it was, rather than becoming suicidal about it; and that he died because he was a somewhat careless amateur chemist – a Maker in today’s parlance.

It’s a much more honourable and positive view. From the article (emphasis added):

Prof Copeland believes the alternative explanation made at the time by Turing’s mother is equally likely.

Turing had cyanide in his house for chemical experiments he conducted in his tiny spare room - the nightmare room he had dubbed it.

He had been electrolysing solutions of the poison, and electroplating spoons with gold, a process that requires potassium cyanide. Although famed for his cerebral powers, Turing had also always shown an experimental bent, and these activities were not unusual for him.

But Turing was careless, Prof Copeland argues.

The electrolysis experiment was wired into the ceiling light socket.

On another occasion, an experiment had resulted in severe electric shocks.

And he was known for tasting chemicals to identify them.

Perhaps he had accidentally put his apple into a puddle of cyanide.

Or perhaps, more likely, he had accidentally inhaled cyanide vapours from the bubbling liquid.

Prof Copeland notes that the nightmare room had a “strong smell” of cyanide after Turing’s death; that inhalation leads to a slower death than ingestion; and that the distribution of the poison in Turing’s organs was more consistent with inhalation than with ingestion.


Turing traveled to Scandinavia to investigate rumors of a homosexual community there after the hormone treatments were complete – not exactly the behavior of someone driven to suicide by shame. He probably committed suicide for the same reason most people do: depression. And his method was probably chosen to protect his loved ones from feelings of guilt and shame. It apparently worked; interviews with his mother reflect her belief that his death was accidental.

1 Like

one done, fifty thousand or so to go…

Good to know that there was an official apology first, otherwise it would have come off like “We castrated you, but don’t despair, we forgive you”.

1 Like

I am somewhat more gratified that Queen Elizabeth’s state issued the pardon than the Government - she at least came of age in and to the throne at the time of the prosecution of Mr. Turing and his subsequent death. While she is not the government, she does represent the Kingdom in a fashion more temporal - it was the mores and culture she came from in the 1940’s & 1950’s that persecuted Turing. Governments, the parties in power are only there for years or decade or two at most, and they can be weasely little things, made of some of the most craven individuals. That the Queen, someone whom can remember the homosexual witch hunts from her own life, has accepted the necessity of pardoning Turning makes me more optimistic.


The Queen is the head of state, it’s a constitutional necessity. But in today’s constitutional monarchy she would not have had a lot of input into the process.

Is the government of today the same thing as the government of yesterday? I think this is an important question when we’re discussing, as we are, state moral values. I don’t think it means anything for the government to issue a pardon. The man will never endure justice. This is for the sake of modern Brits, no one else. It may well still be a good thing, but I’m tired of the belief that justice can ever transcend death.

“(but not the 50,000 other gay men the law unjustly criminalised)”

Didn’t you notice? Turned out they didn’t matter.

A little too late but where there are certainly double standards when it comes to the ‘Establishment’ - http://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-establishment-makes-amends-but_720.html

Dr David Hill
World Innovation Foundation