Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said the government aims to implement the ‘Alan Turing law’ through an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill. The law will effectively act as an apology to those convicted for consensual same-sex relationships before the 1967 decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales.
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Following decades of campaigning, last year the family of enigma code breaker Alan Turing delivered a petition to Downing Street. Public pressure led to all major political parties pledging to introduce the law in memory of Turing who according to Winston Churchill made “the single biggest contribution to the allied victory” in World War II.
Turing lost his job with the secret service following a conviction for gross indecency and was forced to undergo chemical castration. Two years later took his own life. It is estimated that around 49,000 people were convicted under similar outdated laws. Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.
Speaking to the Independent, Turing’s great niece Rachel Barnes said:
“This is a momentous day for all those who have been convicted under the historic laws, and for their families. The gross indecency law ruined peoples’ lives. As Alan Turing received a pardon, it is absolutely right that those who were similarly convicted should receive a pardon as well. It is great news for all those who have worked so hard for years to bring about this new legislation”.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey, who put forward the amendment, added:
“I am very grateful for the Government’s support and the support of many of my colleagues in Parliament.
“It is a wonderful thing that we have been able to build on the pardon granted to Alan Turing during Coalition by extending it to the thousands of men convicted of sexual offences that existed before homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967 and which would not be crimes today.”
The Government has also announced a new statutory pardon for the living in cases where offenses have been successfully deleted through the disregard process, which removes any mention of an offense from criminal record checks.
A separate proposal – set to be debated tomorrow – to provide a blanket pardon for the living without the need to go through the disregard process will be opposed by the government. According to Gyimah, such a proposal “could see people guilty of an offence which is still a crime” pardoned.