Thousands of gay men receive posthumous pardons in Britain, after ‘Turing’s Law’ goes into effect
Thousands of British gay men convicted for now-abolished sexual offences have been posthumously pardoned under a new law named after World War II hero Alan Turing that came into effect on Tuesday.
Despite campaigners’ demands, however, the blanket pardon in England and Wales does not apply automatically to people still living who will have to apply individually to have their convictions removed.
“This is a truly momentous day. We can never undo the hurt caused but we have apologised and taken action to right these wrongs,” junior justice minister Sam Gyimah said in a statement.
The amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill mean about 49,000 men are to be cleared of crimes which no longer exist today.
“Another important milestone of equality has been secured in law,” the gay rights charity Stonewall said.
“Gay and bi men, cautioned or even convicted for kissing, holding hands or just chatting up men, can now have these ‘crimes’ deleted from their record.
“The more equality is enshrined into our law books, the stronger our equality becomes, and the stronger we as a community become,” Stonewall said.
The pardons were first announced last year and the law has now received royal assent and comes into force.
The change was dubbed “Turing’s Law” after Second World War code-breaker and mathematician Turing.
He received a posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth II in 2013 over a conviction in 1952 for gross indecency with a 19-year-old man, triggering calls for a blanket pardon for other men.
Turing did not go to prison but was chemically castrated and died of cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide two years later.
The Oscar-winning 2014 film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch brought belated acclaim for Turing’s role in World War II code-breaking.
Private homosexual acts between men aged over 21 were decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, but the law was not changed in Scotland until 1980 and in Northern Ireland not until 1982.
Anyone alive convicted of same-sex acts before the law was abolished could already apply to have their names cleared through the “disregard process”.
They will now receive an automatic pardon but only once their “disregard” application is approved.
The government said this “due diligence” was necessary to avoid people from claiming to be cleared of offences that are still crimes, including sex with a minor and non-consensual sexual activity.