Pardons of this kind are completely meaningless since they reflect the social mores or obsessions of the time in which they are granted and pay no heed to the circumstances of the era when the sentence was handed down. This particular pardon is also highly selective in that it singles out an individual who has achieved fame or greatness whilst ignoring the many thousands of ordinary men who were found guilty of the same offence. It creates a dubious precedent since a pardon is normally granted only when the person is innocent of the offence and where a request has been made by someone with a personal interest, such as a family member. On this occasion, the pardon was granted without any such requirements being met.
It should be remembered that in the 1950s there was no general public clamour to repeal the laws against male homosexual activity. At the time there was widespread revulsion at such behaviour, which was considered to be unnatural, sinful and disgusting, a view many still hold. For example the Sunday Pictorial compared homosexuality to a 'spreading fungus' and all kinds of alarmist nonsense was propagated on the dangers homosexuals supposedly posed to the nation’s youth. Neither the political establishment, nor the wider society of the time, showed much interest in challenging this warped outlook.
The Wolfenden Report of 1957 recommended decriminalizing homosexual acts involving adult males over 21. However, it was shelved for nearly a decade by the Tory government, fearing a public backlash if it was implemented. The Wolfenden Report made it clear that, although in favour of law reform, it was in no way suggesting that society should condone or approve of homosexual behaviour. It also flagged up concern that the decriminalising of homosexual acts could result in 'large-scale proselytising' by homosexuals, which is indeed what happened. Nevertheless, the Labour government was right to implement the Wolfenden Report recommendations in 1967, since the state should have no place in policing the private sexual activities of its citizens.
It is clearly the case that Turing was convicted under an unjust law. But that does not mean that he should have been pardoned, since to do so is an abuse of the legal system, by rewriting history to conform with current orthodoxies on what should be lawful. Turing was convicted under due process of law for the time and the verdict should stand.
It is worth pointing out that the individual with whom the nearly 40 year old Turing was having a homosexual relationship was a 19 year old unemployed youth he had picked up outside a cinema. There is no doubt that the behaviour of the police and the authorities towards Turing was outrageous. He had reported a burglary to the police and ended up being charged with gross indecency. Then, like now, the police much prefer to persecute middle class 'sex offenders' rather than pursuing hardened criminals.
Turing pleaded guilty and it might be argued he got of lightly by agreeing to take a course of drug treatment aimed at controlling his homosexual predilections, since he could have received a two year prison sentence instead (he might have got five years had the offence been committed during the years 1967-1994). It was only as recently as 1994 that Turing’s offence was decriminalised since his partner was under 21. Turing died two years after his conviction. It is unclear if this was suicide due to eating an apple laced with cyanide or accidental due to the inhalation of cyanide fumes from the potassium cyanide he was using to electroplate his cutlery.
It would be interesting to speculate on which of our current laws will attract the vilification of future generations. There are likely to be quite a few. Today, alarmism over private sexual behaviour continues; now the victims are no longer homosexuals but instead normal heterosexual men. Recent court cases have demonstrated that any physical approach by a man towards a woman, however mild and however long ago, risks the perpetrator receiving a stiff prison sentence.
It would be interesting to know whether in decades to come there will be campaigns to pardon the elderly Stuart Hall for the spurious claims made against him for which he was pressurised into pleading guilty in order to avoid being charged with child rape. Or for the savage sentence given to the former teacher Jeremy Forrest, who committed the heinous crime of travelling to France with his girlfriend. None of the crimes this individual was convicted of were criminal in France and the British authorities breached the terms of his extradition by charging him with sexual offences. Or the Rolf Harris convictions for offences which supposedly took place at venues where there is no evidence he ever visited. All these miscarriages of justice are systematic of what happens when a collective institutionalised hysteria gets out of control. Sadly, but alas predictably, those who most vociferously play the homosexual victimhood card for past persecutions are the least likely to notice the kinds of persecution that have now arisen in today’s society, dictated by highly restrictive feminist notions of what constitutes appropriate sexual conduct by males.