(Then) Prime Minister Gordon Brown, September 2009, being Right:
So I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship: that of code-breaker Alan Turing.
Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. [from the Telegraph]
Minister for Justice Lord McNally, February 2012, being significantly less Right:
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.
It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd-particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times. [via Hansard]
The information that the former apology was made instead of a pardon is an interesting one, as I don’t think that was reported at the time, and I can understand – though I disagree with – the desire not to set a precedent of retrying old cases under new law. But while Gordon Brown’s statement on the subject explained how badly the government felt about it, I feel that the legal status of a pardon – admitting that the forced chemical castration of homosexuals for the crime of being homosexual was absolutely wrong – is a point worth making, and if by making that stand those who were castrated under those circumstances and still live come out into the light of public notice, then it is all to the good. They were all subject to a terrible law. As someone whose contributions to both the war and foundations of the information change is extensive, and yet was driven to suicide by a government who valued his sexuality over his astounding record, Turing presents a great banner-figure, but the acceptance and public acknowledgement of this awful legal decision warrants more than a letter to the Telegraph about one of its more notable fatalities.