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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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  • by StefanJ (88986) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:42PM (#42315359) Homepage Journal

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

    • Agree complete (Score:5, Insightful)

      by neminem (561346) <neminem@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:44PM (#42315379) Homepage

      An official "pardon" for a joke of a "crime" would just legitimize the "crime", and say "it's ok to be gay, but only if you're a brilliant scientist". The above declaration would, on the other hand, send a much stronger message, and would actually mean something.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by loufoque (1400831)

        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

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

          by neminem (561346) <neminem@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:51PM (#42316121) Homepage

          You will note that I basically agreed with everything you said. (Other than my sarcasm quotes around "crime", which I will stick to.) Yes, it was a "crime" at the time. Therefore, pardoning would be silly, and wouldn't help much with anything, given Turing's long dead, he wouldn't care much. Officially retconning the very existence of the "crime" out, though, while it would do just as little to help Turing, would send the strong message, "we feel this was a terrible idea and are sorry we used to think otherwise." They wouldn't do anything "to make the masses happy", they'd be doing it, at least hopefully, because they *agreed* with those masses and wanted to show their agreement. Yes it was a crime at the time. Yes, the people responsible for sentencing the dude to punishment did exactly what the law said they should have done. But... so?

          • by Zalbik (308903)

            "we feel this was a terrible idea and are sorry we used to think otherwise."

            I understand the first part of this sentence, but I'm completely baffled by the second part.

            Who is doing this saying? The government? It was a different government at the time Turing was convicted. So are they trying to say:
            "we (the current government) feel this was a terrible idea and are sorry previous governments used to feel otherwise"

            Why should a current government apologize for the acts of people completely unrelated to

          • by loufoque (1400831)

            Who is this "we" you're speaking of?
            Society?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Datoyminaytah (550912)
          Following this logic, if he were still alive and in prison, there would be no reason to release him once his "crime" ceased to be labeled as a "crime."
          • Following this logic, if he were still alive and in prison, there would be no reason to release him once his "crime" ceased to be labeled as a "crime."

            If he were still in prison when the law was repealed he would automatically have been released but would not get a pardon. Indeed I really don't think that a pardon is appropriate but perhaps for slightly different reasons: pardoning a crime implies you are forgiving the individual who committed the crime. This is the wrong way around. By our modern standards, he committed no crime and so has no need to ask for a pardon. Indeed by petitioning that Turing be pardoning you have to implicitly assume that he d

        • by Golddess (1361003)

          shall we throw logic out the window to make the masses happy?

          Lets ignore the fact that the man is dead and instead pretend that he is alive and in prison. How are we "throwing logic out the window" to release a person from prison because the law that put him there was changed/repealed?

          No, the real question here is why you think it is ok to incarcerate someone for something that is no longer a crime, just because it was a crime when they did it.

          • by loufoque (1400831)

            There is no room for what I think in this.
            The only things that matters is what the law says should apply.

            And a judge has already ratified that there is nothing to do as far as the law and the juridical system are concerned.

            • by Golddess (1361003)

              There is no room for what I think in this.

              Yes, there is. You claim that we would be "throwing logic out the window" if we were to release a person from prison because the reason for which they were incarcerated is no longer a crime. I for one would love to know how you came to that conclusion.

              The only things that matters is what the law says should apply.

              So you are saying that you believe we would be "throwing logic out the window" because the law says that people incarcerated of something that is not currently a crime, even if it was a crime when they first did it, must continue to serve their sentence? If

      • 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 cayenne8 (626475)

          There are also descendants who would benefit in intangible ways from a pardon of their now-deceased family member.

          I do not know that much about Turing, but unless he swung both ways, I don't see how he would have any descendents?

          • by MBGMorden (803437)

            Well, kinda. Some people who are gay will begin a heterosexual relationship merely to appear normal within society.

            They don't really "swing both ways" - they are merely engaging in a facade to appease the masses. Those people may even have children within this relationship.

            I actually have a female relative who ended up in such a situation with her husband. After 5 years of marriage and 2 children he explained to her that he just couldn't keep it up any longer (no pun intended) - that he was gay and he wa

        • by ribuck (943217)

          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: repealing all laws against victimless crimes, and releasing everyone currently imprisoned for victimless crimes

          Fixed it for you!

        • 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

          Vee vere juust follow-enk oorders!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I agree. What he did then was a crime, and a posthumous pardon (aside from being a huge waste of time) does not help the gay rights movement. Saying "we forgive you for being gay because you're a great Briton" is not an appropriate honor. Being happy that an unjust law has been removed is. A pardon is not an apology. It is very much the opposite.

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

        by VValdo (10446) on Monday December 17, 2012 @04:09PM (#42316895)

        Steven Fry agrees [twitter.com]:

        With due respect to Stephen Hawking, let's not pardon Alan Turing. He did nothing wrong. Let's have him on a banknote. And Ada Lovelace too.

    • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:57PM (#42315533)
      . . . he needs an official declaration that he was never guilty in the first place, and should never have been prosecuted.

      As the government always had the option not to prosecute under the law, the least they can do is to explicitly declare the law an error and apologize to and pardon *all* who were prosecuted under it.

      It's not about Turing, so much as it is prosecuting people for something they should never have been prosecuted for (and the government always made the decision whether or not to prosecute)
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:05PM (#42315633)

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

      I think you're misunderstanding what the Judge is saying. Whether someone's guilty or not does not mean they were right or wrong, ethical or unethical. It means that they met an arbitrary standard based on three criterion; The state of mind of the actor, the actual act itself, and the motivations for doing so. The law is not about right or wrong, good or evil, it is about application of a defined criterion and determining whether it meets it or not. That's it. That is all.

      The laws, even back then, were sufficiently complex and vague in many places that everyone commits a criminal offense at least once a day. 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.

      That's the reality of our legal system. It's also why you should never, under any circumstances, talk to the police. I'm serious -- even during a routine traffic stop say "no comment" to every question except your name, address, request for driver's license and other necessary papers. That's why the much maligned 5th amendment was created: Not to protect the guilty, but to protect innocent people that might otherwise, through a lack of understanding of the legal system, wind up convicting themselves for a crime they didn't commit. And yet far too many people give up this right -- 86% of cases never go to trial because of confessions. And let me be frank: When you sit down in an interrogation room, you're going up against an olympic boxer with 20 years of experience questioning people. If you open your mouth, you are going to lose.

      Now, with that detailed analysis of why our legal system is completely divorced from the idea of justice, and why the judge was totally correct in saying a pardon should not be issued, let's also consider that Mr. Turing is dead. He won't benefit from a pardon. But we can all benefit from a frank discussion about how society allowed a man to be tortured for being gay, and use that as a stepping stone to more progressive thinking. I think if Mr. Turing were alive, he would be pleasantly shocked to discover in how many places the tides of religious intolerance have been turned back and gays are now given most (if not all) the same legal recognition and protections as heterosexuals are. I think he would also be standing next to people like George Takei in saying that it does get better. And it does.

      But only if we remember in the darkness, what we've seen in the light.

      • 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 girlintraining (1395911) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:04PM (#42316277)

          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.

          Well you don't have to take my word for it. How about a public defender [youtube.com] in California who now teaches at Harvard Law and a career detective with 20 years under his belt? This was the video that inspired the game I play, precisely because so many people think like you do.

          People like you are in fact so resistant to the idea that they can easily be a criminal too, just like the ones they shun and look at disgust at on TV, that I put my money where my mouth was. $500 seems the magic number for people to give their belief about this aspect of the legal system a spin on the wheel as it were. And it's a real contest, make no mistake man. I take all the footage and logs of what they've done and ask a real and licensed public defender in my state to look over my work and tell me whether it would be actionable or not. A lot of times, I get the interpretation wrong, but never once have I failed to walk out of their offices with a yes vote.

          • by niado (1650369)

            Well you don't have to take my word for it. How about a public defender [youtube.com] in California who now teaches at Harvard Law and a career detective with 20 years under his belt? This was the video that inspired the game I play, precisely because so many people think like you do.

            This is a 48-minute video of a lesson regarding the 5th amendment and "not talking to the police". It seems interesting though I do not feel inclined to watch the whole thing.

            People like you are in fact so resistant to the idea that they can easily be a criminal too, just like the ones they shun and look at disgust at on TV, that I put my money where my mouth was.

            A "crime" can be somewhat minor, though even with our obfuscated legal system it would be rare to commit a crime by accident. A "felony" is usually defined in the US as a serious crime that carries a prison sentence of over 1 year. I have definitely never committed a felony at any time in my life. (FYI - traffic law violations are no

          • I take all the footage and logs of what they've done and ask a real and licensed public defender in my state to look over my work and tell me whether it would be actionable or not.

            'Actionable' != "felony" - you're moving the goalposts, so no wonder you've never paid out the $500. You're telling those that have taken your bet that they're going to be judged by one set of standards - and then actually judging them by a much less strict standard. Not to mention I seriously doubt that an actual 'real license

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)
          I personally don't see many felonies, but misdemeanors are commonplace. The most common I see are traffic violations (mostly speeding, failure to signal, and "rolling stops"), but other violations are often so trivial that people don't even realize they're breaking the law. Simple things like having a crack in a window or a garbage can turned over can be against local laws.
          • by niado (1650369)

            I personally don't see many felonies, but misdemeanors are commonplace. The most common I see are traffic violations (mostly speeding, failure to signal, and "rolling stops"), but other violations are often so trivial that people don't even realize they're breaking the law. Simple things like having a crack in a window or a garbage can turned over can be against local laws.

            Often minor infractions such as these are not considered criminal.

        • Though the rest of your post was rather insightful, this is wild hyperbole...

          Go to youtube and watch this video [youtube.com], and then see if you still think it's hyperbole. A career defense attorney/law professor and a career police interrogator explicitly agree: you are committing crimes just going about your day to day life, and if you say anything to the police other than, "I have nothing to say," you may be condemning yourself to prison without even realizing you did something illegal.

          So never, ever, ever, *EVER* talk to the police except for those very limited items you must divulge (whic

          • by niado (1650369)

            Though the rest of your post was rather insightful, this is wild hyperbole...

            Go to youtube and watch this video [youtube.com], and then see if you still think it's hyperbole. A career defense attorney/law professor and a career police interrogator explicitly agree: you are committing crimes just going about your day to day life, and if you say anything to the police other than, "I have nothing to say," you may be condemning yourself to prison without even realizing you did something illegal.

            The parent made a specific claim that people in general cannot go even a single day, with $500 on the line, without committing a felony. I stand by my statement that this is ridiculous hyperbole, and I feel that it harms a discussion of the actual issue of the obfuscation of law.

        • by steelfood (895457)

          this is wild hyperbole

          You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      • Can I try? I could use $500. If you follow me for a week will you give me $3,500? I am sure you could get me for some non-felonies on me as i do drive and am sure there are some things you could find there. But a felony? Doubt it.

    • However controversial, the Justice Minister's point seems to make sense from a legal standpoint: issuing a pardon could be interpreted as the UK government accepting liability for these past events, in a similar way that issuing apologies to African countries for the triangular trade might.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:20PM (#42315781) Homepage Journal

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

      Or a declaration that the law used in the prosecution and conviction was an evil, mean and stupid law, put on the books by a bunch of stinkers.

      and Britain should never apologise for slavery because it was a totally cool thing with the Crown at the time

    • 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.

      • by Zordak (123132)

        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 called "changing the law." Like, "Hey, you know how we used to think it was a good idea to say that X was against the law? Well, we changed our minds. We are repealing the law that makes X illegal. You can X all the livelong day if you please. You can X your friggin' brains out. We won't bother you about it. So if anything, good or bad, happens because you just go nuts X-ing from sunrise to sunset and into the dark of the night, c'est la vie and all that. We are OUT of the business of policing X." How

  • Better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Feefers (985994) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:44PM (#42315377) Homepage
    Prime Minister Cameron makes a general statement not just for Turing but for all those tortured and prosecuted under what we now rightly see was a terrible and cruel "law". Society has moved on and a bold declaration that not just Turing but all those convicted of crimes of this nature are considered to be pardoned would solidify how far we have progressed.
    • 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 Chris Burke (6130)

        When being gay was decriminalised, the existing criminal convictions were not stricken from the record.

        So when being gay was decriminalized, but there was still a massive societal stigma against being gay causing many homosexuals to stay "in the closet", they would nevertheless have to answer "yes" to "are you a convicted felon?" questions on job applications and list their homosexuality conviction and thus out themselves to their potential future employer?

        Holy fuck!

        Does the UK have anti-discrimination in employment laws?

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

        Obviously far too long in coming, but better late than never I guess!

  • 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"

  • Godwining it here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeng (926980) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:47PM (#42315395)

    And the Germans don't need to apologize for the Holocaust since the Jews were put to death in what was at the time a lawful process.

    I'm sorry, but blaming the rules is just another way to not acknowledge just how badly they fucked him over.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:52PM (#42315465)

      And the Germans don't need to apologize for the Holocaust since the Jews were put to death in what was at the time a lawful process.

      If they apologized specifically to one Jew without apologizing to all the others, I think that would be a bit off.

      • by spazdor (902907)

        Or if they "pardoned" or "absolved" him/her of being a Jew, as in "you're not guilty of that crime after all". That's also a bit off.

    • by Desler (1608317) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:57PM (#42315527)

      I'm sorry, but blaming the rules is just another way to not acknowledge just how badly they fucked him over.

      They fucked over many people under that law. Why should Turing be the only one given a pardon?

      • by lewscroo (695355) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:51PM (#42316123)
        Turing surely shouldn't be the only one. But he's a damn good catalyst to get things going to pardon everyone prosecuted under such an unjust law. Do you think this would be brought up at Slashdot (or elsewhere) if the article said 'We need to Pardon Bob Smith for having committed the crime of being gay'?
    • by steelfood (895457)

      This certainly would've been true had Nazi Germany won the war.

  • Absolution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The word of the day is Absolve. Not for the government but for the Crown and specifically the Queen to Absolve Turing
    of all crimes moral, ethical, and physical.

    absolve /bzälv/
    Verb
    Declare (someone) free from blame, guilt, or responsibility.
    Give absolution for (a sin).

    • Re:Absolution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:13PM (#42315709)

      The Queen's job is conditioned upon her not actually doing anything. If she actually started to use the powers of her office... well, everyone loves the queen, she could probably get away with it. But the monarchy would be stripped of all power even on paper after that, and her successors would struggle to prevent a complete abolition.

      • by spazdor (902907)

        I think this absolution would be symbolic and not-actually-doing-anything enough, given that the person in question is dead.

      • by mog007 (677810)

        I doubt that. The queen still retains ownership of a large portion of land in the UK, and leases it to the people for a small fee.

        There is no legal obligation for the sitting monarch to do this, it's just tradition. The sitting monarch leases the land to Parliament which then leases it out to companies and citizens, and collects taxes on the land.

        The queen uses the money she makes from the lease to live like a... well, like a queen.

  • 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.

    • As a queer person, thank you for A) being open to changing your mind and B) sharing that experience. As Dan Savage noted, most of the people who voted for marriage equality this past election were straight. I don't always agree with Savage, but here he was spot on: The LGBT community owes thanks to the straight allies, and I appreciate you weighing in on this /. discussion to speak your mind.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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

  • by Ga_101 (755815) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:03PM (#42315613)
    I really do not get this "You must apologise for everything!" mentality that has sprung up over the past 15 years or so.

    I'm from the UK. The UK has done some seriously horrible things in both it's distant and recent history.
    While Turing is a personal tragedy, his story isn't even a blip on the radar of what has been carried out by my country in the grand scheme of horribleness.
    Yes. Outlawing homosexuality is wrong. Leaving India, Ireland etc. to starve is wrong. Conquest at the barrel of a gun is wrong. Slavery is wrong. We get it. But, to be harsh, the current generation isn't really disputing any of that. Your beef is with the generations that have come before, rotting in their graves and if given their lives again, probably would have done the exact same thing.

    What meaning does a pardon or an apology have if it is not from those that actually performed the act?
    For it just smacks of the worst kind of tokenistic politics.

    I for one am sick to death of meaningless apologising for the many and numerous mistakes of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on.
    I have enough mistakes of my own to be accountable for.
    • I think a better thing than a pardon, which is legally if not rhetorically problematic, would be a monument. This would be more meaningful.

      It needn't be big, or central, or tremendously expensive. It could just be a quiet place people could go to, to pay their respects. The could read a bit of his story, and think about what he did, and about the other people these laws effected. Rather than being a divisive thing, it could be a place for healing or unburdening.

      I know, this sounds stupid on the surfac

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:22PM (#42315811)

      But, to be harsh, the current generation isn't really disputing any of that. Your beef is with the generations that have come before, rotting in their graves and if given their lives again, probably would have done the exact same thing.

      Queen Elizabeth was crowned the year Turing was convicted. Now, the monarch is certainly not all powerful, but you can hardly say that the crime was committed by a generation of people long dead and buried when the head of state at the time remains the head of state today.

      As for what's makes Turing such a special case that he personally deserves attention against a background of crimes committed to millions: He was one of the smartest, most influential people of his age, he laid the groundwork for modern computing, there is no telling what kinds of advances might have been possible in the world of computers if we had his insight for another few decades. And more than that, Turing was a fucking war hero. His work in code breaking and computer engineering saved countless allied lives during WWII. And how did his country repay him? Prosecution, insults, public humiliation, and finally castration. Because he had a consensual relationship with another man.

      • by Ga_101 (755815)
        I hate to point this out, but there were not many people in their mid twenties in any position of power in the 1950's.
        That and the vast majority of Elizabeth II's generation are very much dead.

        Thankfully old men die and attitudes change.
        Unfortunately it often takes the old men dying for it happen.
        • The point I was making is that 70 years isn't so far, the ideas and attitudes aren't that far removed from the present; in fact there is a significant minority who would see those laws reenacted if they could get their way. Think about it this way, there may not have been many people in power then in power now, but I can guarantee you that there are people who worked in those offices then that are running those offices now.

          The government making an explicit declaration "the way we treated homosexuals was wr

  • Not just Turing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hpa (7948) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:04PM (#42315629) Homepage
    ... but everyone ever convicted under this barbaric law should have their convictions expunged. Keep in mind there are probably some that are still alive, which makes it even more important.
  • 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...

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:09PM (#42315673) Journal

    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?

    I agree in principle, but what's the Statute of Limitations on historical grievances? Can we just settle on one generation or 50 years, whichever is greater?

    Or are we going to go through history and insist on apologies for everything everyone ever did wrong or had wrong done to them? Go back far enough and everyone's a victim of something at SOME point.

    Because frankly, the very idea is colossally stupid.

    • 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 argStyopa (232550)

        But hasn't the law been changed?

        Homosexual acts were in fact illegal at the time. Setting aside the reasonability of the law itself, on a binary "did he or didn't he" basis he WAS guilty of breaking that law.

        To suggest that we're overturning some sort of precedent is sort of moot if the law no longer exists, certainly, or am I misunderstanding?

        On the other hand, and taking YOUR argument further, if we proceed along this course and (as seems quite likely, for example) marijuana is legalized generally, are w

    • by Kittenman (971447)

      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?

      I agree in principle, but what's the Statute of Limitations on historical grievances? Can we just settle on one generation or 50 years, whichever is greater?

      Or are we going to go through history and insist on apologies for everything everyone ever did wrong or had wrong done to them? Go back far enough and everyone's a victim of something at SOME point.

      Because frankly, the very idea is colossally stupid.

      Didn't one of the popes apologize for the crusades? Useful.

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

    Lots of things are criminal offenses that should not be. The fact that it may have been the law at the time does not make it in any way justifiable. A pardon would hurt nothing, cost (almost) nothing, and show that we've evolved. While I think that apologizing to a dead person is a ridiculous idea, the idea of overturning a terrible legal precedent is not silly at all. In theory this verdict could be used to support future government sponsored lynchings if it is not overturned.

    • A pardon doesn't affect legal precedent at all, since it's a special exception. Pardoning Turing could just mean he did important work unlike the typical gay who deserved to be punished; or it could mean that Turning was framed, and wasn't actually gay. Even the symbolic meaning is ambiguous, since while it draws attention to past injustice, it sort of nullifies it at the same time.
  • by lewscroo (695355) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:36PM (#42315943)
    Yeah, that's why I think runaway slaves should be and forever will be looked upon poorly. I mean, they knew what they were doing was against the law. Harriet Tubman was just a lawbreaker and enabler for those criminals, plain and simple. And Rosa Parks was just a troublemaker who deserved to go to jail. And those stupid interracial couples daring to love each other when the laws clearly stated that wasn't allowed. Don't you know two consenting adults can't just go around having sex with whomever they want and think that the government shouldn't be punishing you for it. (sorry I don't know British equivalents though I am sure there are plenty)
  • "A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offense."

    That's what pardons are for!

  • What makes Turing any different from any other person who was convicted of this offence back when it was illegal?

    I'm aware of his work on the Enigma machines and he is quite rightly recognised for this, but a person's achievements should have no bearing on how they are treated in the eyes of the law. If we go ahead and pardon Turing, we must go ahead and pardon everyone else who was convicted under the same legislation.

    Similarly, what makes the law against homosexuality any different or any worse than
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Why not issue blanket pardons to anyone convicted of a law that has been repealed?

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

    ...but that's exactly what a pardon is for -- forgiveness of a crime. It's acknowledgement that a crime was committed, and that the crime is forgiven. How does "properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offense" have any bearing at all?

  • by GuB-42 (2483988) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:24PM (#42316459)

    Turing doesn't deserve pardon.
    He knew the rules, he broke them anyways, he got what he deserved.
    Homosexuality at the time was a major social taboo and a criminal offense. The fact that it shouldn't have been the case is not the question. And of course, pardoning him and him alone would mean that the law doesn't apply to great scientists, a terrible message IMHO.

    It is the shame that Turing had to die for this reason but wherever we do, it won't change the past.

  • It sounds like a lot of people are saying, "It was unlawful back then, but it is legal now, so he should receive a pardon!" If that is the case, shouldn't the converse also apply? Should people be prosecuted now for participating in an activity that was legal at the time, but is no longer? I know that it used to be legal to drive 70 miles per hour on a highway near my home, and the speed limit is now 55mph. Should I now be issued a citation for each time I drove at the previously higher rate of speed?
    • by JSBiff (87824)

      Honestly, it depends on how the laws are written that legalize a former crime. It's perfectly possible (and I suspect this may be part of the Washington and Colorado initiatives, though I haven't checked) for a new law to state that a former law is repealed, and also that any prior convictions under the previous law shall be vacated.

  • IMO they seem to be an attempt to wipe history from the books and give everyone their kumbaya moment to hold hands and pretend everything is hunky dory. Unless the offended party is still alive, leave them on the books as a lesson to our children of what can happen when government exceeds its bounds.

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