PM’s Alan Turing apology “commendable”

But 100,000 other gay victims also deserve an apology

London – 11 September 2009


“The Prime Minister’s apology for the homophobic persecution of war-time code breaker and computer pioneer Alan Turing is commendable and quite a coup. Governments rarely apologise for anything.

“But I am disappointed that Gordon Brown has not given Turing a pardon and a posthumous knighthood,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

“An apology and pardon is also due to the estimated 100,000 British men who were also convicted of consenting, victimless same-sex relationships during the twentieth century,” he added.

Turing’s prosecution on charges of homosexuality and subsequent chemical castration drove him to suicide in 1954, aged 41.

“Singling out Turing just because he is famous is wrong. Unlike Turing, many thousands of ordinary gay and bisexual men were never given the option of hormone treatment as an alternative to jail. They were sent to prison,” added Mr Tatchell.

“All these men were criminalised for behaviour that was not a crime between heterosexual men and women.

“The homophobic ‘gross indecency’ law, under which Turing and many others were convicted, was a consensual offence, which only applied to sex between men. It was the same law that was used to prosecute and jail Oscar Wilde in 1895. First legislated in 1885 as part of a Victorian-era crackdown on homosexuality, this law was not finally repealed until 2003,” said Mr Tatchell.

Gordon Brown’s apology followed an online petition which was organised by computer scientist John Graham-Cumming. In the space of just a few weeks, it gathered over 31,000 signatures in the UK:

Signatories included the philospoher AC Grayling, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author Ian McEwan and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

An international version of the petition was signed by nearly 11,000 people:

In a statement yesterday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “While Mr Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him.”

He said Mr Turing deserved recognition for his contribution to humankind.

In the statement he said: “So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

See this BBC news report:

“A government apology and pardon are long overdue,” added Mr Tatchell.

“This year marks the 55th anniversary of Turing’s tragic suicide.

“Alan Turing was one of the greatest mathematical geniuses of all time. He is the founder of modern computing and his war-time role in cracking the Nazi military codes helped save Britain from German conquest. The whole country owes him a great debt. Without Turing and other code-crackers, we might be living in the Third Reich. Our freedom is, in part, due Turing. He helped us defeat fascism and win the war.

“Turing’s arrest and conviction in 1952 for a consenting gay relationship, and his subsequent chemical castration to supposedly ‘cure’ his homosexuality, were barbaric, inhuman abuses of a truly outstanding war hero.

“Removing his security clearance and preventing him from continuing his work at GCHQ was an added insult and humiliation, which ultimately drove him to depression and suicide in 1954.

“With Turing’s death, Britain and the world lost one of its finest intellectual minds.

For additional information about the life and achievements of Alan Turing see here: