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New Call For Turing Pardon 231

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-him-a-break dept.
mikejuk writes "As 2012, Alan Turing Year, draws to close a group of highly regarded UK scientists, including Professor Stephen Hawking, have repeated the call for a posthumous pardon for Turing's criminal conviction in a letter to the Telegraph. The letter has re-opened the debate, which is controversial even for those who support the idea that Turing was treated in an unfair and appalling way, was formally acknowledged by the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 when he apologized for the treatment Turing had received. In February Justice Minister Lord McNally rebuffed a 23,000 signature petition for a pardon saying: 'A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offense.'"
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New Call For Turing Pardon

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  • Properly convicted (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:46PM (#42315391) Homepage

    ... But as records of courts and justice are admissible, it can easily be proved that powerful and malevolent magicians once existed and were a scourge to mankind. The evidence (including confession) upon which certain women were convicted of witchcraft and executed was without a flaw; it is still unimpeachable. The judges' decisions based on it were sound in logic and in law. Nothing in any existing court was ever more thoroughly proved than the charges of witchcraft and sorcery for which so many suffered death. If there were no witches, human testimony and human reason are alike destitute of value.

    —Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"

  • Let it stand (Score:4, Interesting)

    by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:54PM (#42315489) Homepage
    I think they should let the conviction stand.
    It is a reminder of how far we have come...and of how far we still have to go.
  • Outrageous (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:03PM (#42315605) Journal

    I am about 40 years old, and for most of my life considered homosexuals to be somehow inferior with through genetics or lifestyle choice. My world view has changed quite a bit, mostly by seeing real-world homosexuals, and strangely enough a closeted homosexual who claimed to be "cured".

    It is hard to put a date on when my view changed, but now I see how wrong I was and fully support same-sex marriage and make sure to show my support as a way of undoing some of the ignorance I helped spread.

    In the same way, we have an opportunity to not just pardon Turing, but express just how wrong we were. It will never erase the harm, but it will help heal the wound.

  • by sribe (304414) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:05PM (#42315641)

    A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offense.

    Don't let bigots hide behind this kind of sophistry; forget a pardon; let's have parliament declare that the law was inhumane, unjust, invalid, and that all convictions are vacated.

    Nope, I don't live in the U.K. and don't know the legal process enough to fill in the details. However, the U.S. and British system share deep roots, so I expect that our concept of vacating a conviction has some parallel there. Here, it is normally done for egregious legal error during the trial, but I am sure that it could also be legislated...

  • Re:Better idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:14PM (#42315725) Journal

    Your better idea is already coming up.

    When being gay was decriminalised, the existing criminal convictions were not stricken from the record, so there are still people in the UK with a criminal record for being gay even though it is not a crime.

    Nice.

    I believe a new law is being passed to unilaterally strick all convictions of such nature, leaving such people with a clean record.

  • by niado (1650369) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:25PM (#42315839)

    In the United States, I have played a game with friends I like to call "Who Wants To Be A Felon" -- and then record their daily activities (for one day) and tell them, based on which laws, how many felonies they committed. The rules are: You can't just sit in your house and wait it out, you have to do something you'd ordinarily do on an average day (go to work, use a computer, eat breakfast, etc.) At the end of the day, I collect the cameras and if I can't find a felony you've committed during that 24 hour period, you get $500 bucks. Dozens have tried. Nobody's won so far.

    Though the rest of your post was rather insightful, this is wild hyperbole, unless you are playing this game only with a particularly lawless set of individuals.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:29PM (#42315883)

    OK in 2012, everyone's cool with Turing being gay today...but honestly, when does this shit stop? Retroactive pardons? Retroactive suspension of the conviction and expunging of the record?

    The problem is that the legal precedent stands and can be used to support future cases. I agree that apologizing to the dead is quite silly but changing bad legal precedent is an extremely good idea. The point is to prevent future acts of malice by the government. If we honor the contributions of the victim in the process then that is just a bonus.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:37PM (#42315953) Journal

    . . . he needs an official declaration that he was never guilty in the first place, and should never have been prosecuted.

    I don't know if there is such an instrument; but what we really need for this situation(and a fair few others) is some equivalent of a 'pardon' that constitutes a formal repudiation of the law in question.

    "Pardon" = "Guilty; but we'll let it slide because something something or other." What we need is a "Law XYZ was total bullshit, even when it was still on the books, and prosecutions for violation of it, however formally correct, are similarly unjust."

    It's perfectly correct not to pardon Turing, there's no evidence that the conviction was procedurally or factually troubled(and selective pardoning of cool guilty people is, if anything, an offense to justice itself); but it is worth noting that the 'crime' he was convicted of never should have been a crime.

  • Re:Agree complete (Score:3, Interesting)

    by loufoque (1400831) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:38PM (#42315961)

    What is a crime and what isn't is arbitrary. At the time, the law, said this was a crime, so it was.
    There is no absolute definition of crime, just what a jurisdiction will classify as crime during a certain time period.
    Therefore, technically, there is no reason to give a pardon at all.

    The thing is, emo people would feel better if a pardon was given, because the previous law was unjust (whatever that means) and therefore changed. So the real question here is the following: shall we throw logic out the window to make the masses happy?
    The answer, of course, is no. There is no sufficient popularity to gain to justify such nonsense.

  • Re:Agree complete (Score:5, Interesting)

    by davidwr (791652) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:44PM (#42316013) Homepage Journal

    Legally, the prosecution did not commit any error in law and, if they had discretion to prosecute or decline prosecution, it's hard to make a case that they made an error in judgment.

    Parliament, representing the people, did their job as the law reflected social norms of the time and it did not violate any "basic rights" of Englishmen as they were understood at the time.

    What is needed in this an any other situation where a government, representing the people and acting in good faith, acts in a way that a future generation realizes is just plain wrong, is an apology from the current government "on behalf of" is predecessor and the people it represented.

    Parliament can and should come out and say "Many years ago, our country adopted laws and policies which we now know were morally wrong. We apologize for those acts. We cannot undo all of the wrong that was done, but this is what we are doing...." followed by specific details such as nullifying criminal convictions, etc.

    By the way, the text from the pardon refusal (taken from here [i-programmer.info]) says

    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

    While I agree about never returning to those times and I agree that the past cannot be fully "put right," I disagree that no action is better than partial action. There are no doubt some people who are alive today who would personally benefit from such a pardon. There are also descendants who would benefit in intangible ways from a pardon of their now-deceased family member. Society also benefits when governments admit and, when possible, take action to correct mistakes.

  • by SourceFrog (627014) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:14PM (#42316371)
    Considering that things like "curfew" and "loitering" ("the act of remaining in a particular public place for a protracted time") are amongst the most commonly prosecuted felonies in the US, just to start with, I don't think it sounds too hyperbolic (e.g. http://felonyguide.com/List-of-felony-crimes.php [felonyguide.com]). Linger for a few seconds too long on the sidewalk while out to lunch? Sorry, guilty of loitering.
  • Re:Outrageous (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @04:57PM (#42317599)

    In contrast, my attitude hasn't changed much over the years of my own ordinary 20-year heterosexual marriage. It's summed up by a pretty famous quote by a politician in my country: "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation." Furthermore, if people want to get married and take on the benefits and responsibilities that come with that kind of commitment to another person, I can't see how their gender enters into the equation. The government should recognize it regardless. In my country, they already do. I think the idea that the government recognizing same-sex marriages somehow diminishes heterosexual marriages is ridiculous. At the time the idea first came up, I admit I had to think about it a bit. But I quickly realized it would have ZERO effect on my own marriage or how much I love my wife, so why not? How could I deny other people the same opportunity that I have had?

    If my wife and I lived back in the time that Turing did, we'd probably have been in trouble with the law and or society's perceptions too (Living together out of wedlock! Oh my!). Thank goodness things have changed, and consenting adults can find their own way through their relationships with little government interference. The less the better.

    As for the pardon, honestly I don't see much point unless you are going to do it for everyone previously convicted under that law and related ones. I personally think the apology should be enough and that doing more is redundant, but if people want to take another step to make an even stronger point that we have moved on, then do it for all. You shouldn't have to be a scientist and war hero to acknowledge the mistake that was made.

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