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UK proposes 'Alan Turing' law to pardon gay, bisexual men

Under an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill, anyone convicted of now-abolished criminal offences can apply for a full pardon.

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Alan Turing

Heritage Images/Getty Images

The UK government is seeking to pardon men convicted of now-abolished same-sex criminal offences.

The pardons would come under what the government is calling Turing's Law, which aims to amend the country's Policing and Crime Bill, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said in a statement Thursday. Turing's Law is named in honor of Alan Turing, the brilliant UK mathematician who laid the basis for much of modern computing and helped break Germany's Enigma Code during World War II.

If Turing's Law passes, anyone still living who was convicted of crimes such as "gross indecency" for consensual same-sex relationships will be able to apply to have the offence wiped from the record. Deceased people would be pardoned automatically. The pardons would apply only in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland handle their own judicial affairs.

Gyimah said the move builds on the case of Turing, who committed suicide in 1954 after his conviction of gross indecency. Queen Elizabeth II officially pardoned him posthumously in 2013, 31 years after homosexual acts were decriminalized in all of the UK.

Although Gyimah called the pardons "hugely important", others say they should be granted automatically to everyone, not just the deceased. Parliament will debate a separate bill on Friday that would bring blanket pardons, but Gyimah said the government would not support it.