Some of Britain’s leading scientists have called on the government to grant a posthumous pardon to the fantastic mathematician Alan Turing. Turning is best known for his code breaking work during the war at Bletchly Park, although his mathematical genius reached far wider than just that.
In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency after acknowledging a sexual relationship with a man. He was submitted to treatment with female hormones, and three years later took his own life. Homosexual acts between two men were illegal at this time, and were decriminalised in 1967.
Professor Stephen Hawking, Astronomer Royal Lord Rees and the Royal Society’s Sir Paul Nurse are among 11 signatories to a letter in the Daily Telegraph calling for Turning to be pardoned. This has caused quite an uproar of debate and opinion.
Personally, I feel that if the law was deemed wrong enough to be scrapped, then those caught by that law should be pardoned. Quite simple really. The excuse of saying that it was the law at the time just doesn’t hold much truck with me I’m afraid.
In my mind, if you repeal a law because you think it was wrong, you say that you were sorry for anyone caught under it, had the law not being there they would have no record of doing wrong. I know it’s almost a circular argument, but I feel it’s a matter of principle, and not just about this law. I think that any thing that was wrong to punish makes the punishment wrong regardless of whether it was the law at the time of punishment.
I think that it’s much broader than this case; it is a philosophical debate of what law, crime and punishment really mean.