Turing dilemma

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Should Downing Street respond positively to the request from Alan Turing’s family to pardon 49,000 other men convicted in the 1950s, and later, for gross indecency (your report, 23 February)?

It raises questions about jurisprudence and the entire system of honours and posthumous pardons.

None of it should detract us from recognition of the vital work the eminent scientist and codebreaker did for the Allied Second World War effort.

Indeed, it is puzzling that his work has not achieved more recognition in terms of public acclaim. I think hardly anyone would object if numerous buildings or projects throughout the United Kingdom were named after him.

That does not mean that his fame, his life-saving insights, put him or anyone else above the law, even a law so manifestly cruel and inhumane as the 19th-century legislation that allowed the gross indecency prosecutions.

The public mood in the 1950s about homosexuality was very different to what exists today and arcane laws to some degree reflected that. Simply because laws are arcane doesn’t mean they should simply be ignored.

Perhaps the real issue is whether it was wise to grant him a posthumous royal pardon at all. His offence pales into insignificance compared with his wider achievements; in the modern world I doubt if anyone would think less of him because of his conviction.

But given that he was pardoned it seems wrong that others in a similar situation should not be pardoned too. It is a question of equality before the law.

Somehow the government must allow time in the House of Commons or a simple recommendation from the Prime Minister or Home Secretary to recognise that.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court