The family of codebreaker Alan Turing – who was brought to the big screen by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game – will visit Downing Street today to demand the government pardons 49,000 other men persecuted like him for their homosexuality.
Turing, whose work cracking the German military codes was vital to the British war effort, was convicted in 1952 for gross indecency with a 19-year-old man, was chemically castrated, and two years later died from cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide. He was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013 and campaigners want the government to pardon all the men convicted under the outdated law.
Turing’s great-nephew, Nevil Hunt, his great-niece, Rachel Barnes, and her son, Thomas, will hand over the petition, which attracted almost half a million signatures to No 10 Downing Street.
Ms Barnes, 52, from Taunton, said: “I consider it to be fair and just that everybody who was convicted under the Gross Indecency Law is given a pardon. It is illogical that my great uncle has been the only one to be pardoned.
“I feel sure that Alan Turing would have also wanted justice for everybody.”
The editor of Attitude magazine, Matthew Todd, who will also visit Downing Street, said: “Generations of gay and bisexual men were forced to live their lives in a state of terror.
“Men convicted of gross indecency were often considered to have brought huge shame on their families and many took their own lives. It’s about time the country addressed this appalling part of our history.”
Cumberbatch’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of Turing has brought the pioneering scientist’s story to a wider audience.
The film follows him from his days working as a Second World War codebreaker at Bletchley Park to his work at Manchester University, which saw him hailed as the father of modern computing, and his tragic death.
Turing led a team decoding messages at Bletchley Park, whose work remained secret until many years after the war’s end, and also designed the “bombe” machine which decrypted German messages.
At the Oscars last night, Cumberbatch was up against another British actor, Eddie Redmayne, for his portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking in the hit film The Theory of Everything.
The actor, whose mantelpiece is already laden with a Bafta, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor’s Guild award, was favourite to win the Oscar.
Also in the running were Steve Carell, nominated for Foxcatcher, American Sniper’s Bradley Cooper and Birdman’s Michael Keaton.
Redmayne’s co-star in The Theory of Everything, Felicity Jones, and Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike are both nominated for the best actress gong. Jones played Professor Hawking’s first wife Jane whose memoir of life with him inspired the film.
They face competition from Reese Witherspoon, Julianne Moore and Marion Cotillard.
Keira Knightley, who stars alongside Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, is nominated for the best supporting actress award alongside Oscars veteran Meryl Streep – who is shortlisted for a 19th time. The other nominees are Patricia Arquette, Laura Dern and Emma Stone.
Both The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game were in contention to be named best film along with American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma and Whiplash.
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