Stephen Hawking calls for David Cameron to pardon gay code breaker Alan Turing
The scientist Professor Stephen Hawking and the broadcaster Lord Michael Grade have joined other distinguished scientists and peers to call on the Government to pardon Alan Turing.
He killed himself in 1952, two years after being sentenced to chemical castration.
The letter (found below) calls on David Cameron to initiate a formal pardon for the code breaker. Following questions from PinkNews.co.uk readers in 2010, he promised a Conservative Government would to disregard the criminal records of those convicted of historic gay sex offences. The measure was passed into law in October of this year. However, as those with such criminal records must apply to have their records cleared, it did not apply to Turing’s conviction.
In 2009, after a campaign led by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry and Peter Tatchell and supported by PinkNews.co.uk, the then prime minister Gordon Brown issue an apology for Turing’s treatment on behalf of the British government.
Earlier this year Justice Minister Lord McNally said of the prospect of a pardon: “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.
The signatories of the letter include Lord (John) Sharkey, a Lib Dem peer who proposed a private members bill to clear Turing in July.
The letter to the Daily Telegraph in full:-
SIR – We write in support of a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era. He lead the team of Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park, which most historians agree shortened the Second World War. Yet successive governments seem incapable of forgiving his conviction for the then crime of being a homosexual, which led to his suicide, aged 41.
We urge the Prime Minister formally to forgive this British hero, to whom we owe so much as a nation, and whose pioneering contribution to computer sciences remains relevant even today. To those who seek to block attempts to secure a pardon with the argument that this would set a precedent, we would answer that Turing’s achievements are sui generis. It is time his reputation was unblemished.
Lord Currie of Marylebone
Lord Grade of Yarmouth
Lord Faulkner or Worcester
Lord Rees of Ludlow
Lord Smith of Finsbury
Sir Timothy Gowers
Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University
Dr Douglas Gurr
Chairman, Science Museum Group
Professor Stephen Hawking
Sir Paul Nurse
President, the Royal Society