LIbLInk: John Sharkey: Why I fought to get a pardon for gay and bi men

Much of the coverage of the new law pardoning thousands of gay men for historic convictions became law last week. The Lib Dem peer who fought for this for years, John Sharkey, has written for Pink News about why this was such an important issue for him.

He started with an account of how homosexual acts became a crime in the first place – almost casually.

On 6 August 1885, late at night in the Commons debate on the Criminal Law Amendment Act, Henry Labouchère suddenly produced an amendment to the Bill before the House. This amendment criminalised homosexual acts. The only discussion was over the penalty to be imposed. Labouchère had proposed a maximum of one year. Sir Henry James suggested two years and Labouchère agreed. The whole debate had four speakers, including Labouchère. It lasted four minutes and consisted of a total of 440 words, but 75,000 men were convicted under this amendment, and Alan Turing was one of those.

At university, he had been taught by Turing’s closest friends and got to know his story: 

Turing led the way in cracking the Enigma code. This alone probably turned the Battle of the Atlantic. Respected commentators estimate that this shortened the war by two years, saving many, many thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of lives. This was Turing’s work. Turing is also one of the fathers, if not the father, of computer science. Every time anyone, anywhere, uses a computer for any purpose there is a kind of debt to Turing. And Turing was treated with terrible cruelty, as were all convicted under the Labouchère amendment.

People recognise that Turing was a hero and a very great man. As long ago as 1999, Time magazine named Turing as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. In 2002, Turing was ranked 21st in the BBC’s poll of the 100 greatest Britons. On the centenary of Turing’s birth, there were a very large number of events all over the world celebrating Turing’s life and his achievements. More than 40 countries were involved in those celebrations. He was convicted in 1952 of gross indecency and sentenced to chemical castration. He committed suicide two years later.

The Government know that Turing was a hero and a very great man. They acknowledge that he was cruelly treated. They must have seen the esteem in which he is held here and around the world.

The Government had previously fought John Sharkey’s attempts to secure posthumous pardons for those convicted under the Labouchere law. The Justice Minister didn’t let any of that show last week when he tried to take credit for it. The reality is that if John Sharkey hadn’t pushed for this for so long, it wouldn’t have happened.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in LibLink.
Advert

One Comment

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Feb '17 - 8:41pm

    I saw the play Breaking the Code in the theatre twenty years ago with Derek Jacobi, who repeated the terrific performance on television. Turing was one of the most horribly maligned in our history.Some might not have known of him till recent media , any who do know the man for what he was , one of the giants. Well done Lord Sharkey . Hope Turing is at peace.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Allen 18th Oct - 1:00am
    To quote "Cyclefree" on Political Betting http://www2.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2019/10/17/welcome-to-the-looking-glass/ "The race is on to see if this deal can be nailed down before people have a chance...
  • User AvatarRoss McLean 18th Oct - 12:08am
    JohnMc "Plaid Cymru make a similar argument about Lib Dem funding in Wales (ie it comes from England)" That's not the point being made in...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 18th Oct - 12:05am
    John Marriott - It looks as if Juncker was somewhat exceeding his authority. I suspect the EU would rule out an extension for more deal-tweaking....
  • User AvatarAllan Brame 17th Oct - 11:44pm
    Slightly odd comments in response to this article. The simple point being made is that it is odd, to say the least, for a party...
  • User Avatarmalc 17th Oct - 11:43pm
    A telephone poll of 400, commissioned by the LibDems. Fieldwork carried out on the 2nd Oct.
  • User Avatarmalc 17th Oct - 11:31pm
    The SNP have tabled an amendment to the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, asking for an immediate extension to the October 31 deadline and a general...