Wartime hero and “father of modern computing” Alan Turing is given a posthumous royal pardon for a 61-year-old conviction for homosexual activity.
Dr Turing, who was pivotal in breaking the Enigma code, arguably shortening the Second World War by at least two years, was chemically castrated following his conviction in 1952.
Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind – Chris Grayling
His conviction for “gross indecency” led to the removal of his security clearance and meant he was no longer able to work for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) where he had continued to work following service at Bletchley Park during the war.
Dr Turing, who died aged 41 in 1954 and is often described as the father of modern computing, has been granted a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen following a request from Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
“Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind,” Mr Grayling said.
“His brilliance was put into practice at Bletchley Park during the Second World War where he was pivotal to breaking the Enigma code, helping to end the war and save thousands of lives.
“His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed.
“Dr Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”
Dr Turing died of cyanide poisoning and an inquest recorded a verdict of suicide, although his mother and others maintained his death was accidental.
There has been a long campaign to clear the mathematician’s name, including a well-supported e-petition and private member’s bill, along with support from leading scientists such as Sir Stephen Hawking.
The pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy will come into effect on Tuesday.
The justice secretary has the power to ask the Queen to grant a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, for civilians convicted in England and Wales.
Read more: Tragic genius Turing remembered
A pardon is only normally granted when the person is innocent of the offence and where a request has been made by someone with a vested interest such as a family member. But on this occasion a pardon has been issued without either requirement being met.
In September 2009, then-prime minister Gordon Brown apologised to Dr Turing for prosecuting him as a homosexual after a petition calling for such a move.
An e-petiton – titled “Grant a pardon to Alan Turing” – received 37,404 signatures when it closed in November last year.
The request was declined by Lord McNally on the grounds that Dr Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence.