To announce today that Turing was unjustly convicted under a ridiculous law and that he will be posthumously pardoned is not to alter the historical context but to assert that the law is a living thing and that our conception of justice evolves over time.
Edit - it sounds like the Protection of Freedoms bill does just this. http://blog.jgc.org/2011/11/why-im-not-supporting-campaign-f...
The reason why you avoid it is because you criminalize actions that when were taking place the person had no reasonable expectation that it was illegal, you are essentially changing the rules of the game after it has been played.
As much as we want to change the past, we never can. So it's dangerous to consider changing an illegal act in the past into a legal one as you open the doors to the idea that you can change a legal act in the past into an illegal one. Today's 'justice' being used to convict yesterdays normality.
"In the United States, the federal government is prohibited from passing ex post facto laws by clause 3 of Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution and the states are prohibited from the same by clause 1 of Article I, section 10. This is one of the very few restrictions that the United States Constitution made to both the power of the federal and state governments prior to the Fourteenth Amendment. "
"In the United Kingdom, ex post facto laws are frowned upon, but are permitted by virtue of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty."
> If, subsequent to the commission of the offence, provision is made by law for the imposition of the lighter penalty, the offender shall benefit thereby.
So while punishing or increasing the punishment for an act in the past is illegal, making the punishment lighter does apply retroactively.
Now, I have no idea of how pertinent this particular treaty is (I know little about law), but at the very least it shows some consensus that lightening a punishment retroactively is not only allowable but also necessary.
(That said, and before anyone unfairly cites Godwin's law, I'm of course not saying that the current British government compares in any way to the Nazi dictatorship.)
It's better to stand by your mistakes than to pretend they never happened.
A pardon is a separate and distinct legal action, which is unwarranted.
It's whitewashing because the act of doing it is more offensive than simply leaving it as is. Pardoning Turing would be pardoning him for being gay and makes no correction for the horrendous treatment he received, which was the point of the apology.
An apology is what Turing deserved. A pardon is an insult to his memory.
Same applies to many of those who have been prosecuted under Stalin's rule. Still, there was a process called "political rehabilitation", for lack of better term, which essentially means that their sentences were declared void and their rights were restored. For hundreds of thousands, of course, posthumously.
Well, Godwin's law be damned, it compares in at least several ways. The Nazi dictatorship was just one of many unjust regimes in the past. No reason why we cannot compare it to others, past or present. They did kill millions of jews, communists, gypsies and gays in concentration camps, but lots of other regimes have killed millions of people too.
Now, as to how the British government compares to the Nazi dictatorship. Well, they have even worse mass surveillance program (CCTV) that the Nazi's had. And the British had invaded and enslaved more countries during their colonial era than Germany ever did. And they are responsible for lots of subsequent wars in their old colonies, since they used "divide and conquer" tactics (establishing artificial buffer states, playing parts of the population against the other, et al) to ensure continued dependance and instability after de-colonizing them (from India-Pakistan, to Israel-Palestine, to Ethiopia-Eritrea, to Cyprus-Turkey, the list goes on).
anyway, the whole concept of law today is based on that idea. law exists at a place, at a time. There are lots of cases that end up like that. "it was NOT a crime then, so even if it is a crime today, we can't do anything".
and on the other way around, by Ex post facto it would be pretty possible to aggravate some other charge based on old laws that applied at the time that today are considered crazy for some reason. It cannot be brought to prosecute gays today just because most countries limit ex post facto for 'rights' acquired later. but for anything else, it's fair game.
But the people who say that "anyone who brings up the nazis is wrong" are people pushing a revisionist view of history that denies the holocaust-- because they assert that nazi germany was an aberration, that somehow, magically, has nothing to do with the rest of the world or history, and thus any reference to it is tantamount to simply calling someone a nazi.
As you showed in your post, it is quite possible to make a comparison to Nazi Germany without engaging in name calling, or being irrational.
Thus, Godwins actual law does apply -- you made the reference, and thus Godwin is satisfied (since the likelihood approaches one.)
But the fake "Godwin's law" that people cite is also disproven-- your reference is accurate and astute.
Might be a deterrent to imposing new oppressive laws, although I seriously doubt it.
I would think this is a terrible idea. For example, my government might actually take it into its head to ask (yet again) that we get the Kohinoor diamond back :)
(btw, I'm not an Indian)
More seriously, given that pretty much all of history is rife with examples of transfer of wealth from one place to another. it's better to (try to) not make the same mistake again, rather than fixing the past.
Nothing to do with justice. Justice is supposed to be ABOVE the law, and especially above an abolished law.
The main problem that they wanted to prevent is a backslash of complaints, arguments, lawsuits and demands for similar apologies from people that the government had done wrong in the past according to other, similar or not, abolished laws. Remember, this is the UK, an ex colonial power that has royally (pun intended) f*d whole countries and peoples up in the past century.
At this point in history, an apology and pardon would slightly clear the name of the Crown from a legacy as a bigoted hateful illegitimate government that tramples on rights and whose amoral so-called "laws" tortured a good man until he gave in to suicide.
By refusing to do so, the Crown can not harm Turing whose legacy is assured by history. They only harm themselves, and quite frankly, it is their choice to do so.
It is Turing whose pardon they must secure. Not vice versa. As he is deceased, that opportunity is past and their crimes remain both unforgiven and unforgivable.
I think is is the same reason that they declined to issue the pardon. The ministers didn't feel it was appropriate to try and retroactively whitewash the actions of the crown and that it should continue to bear a stain for those actions.
What about all the other absurd laws of the past, many of which still shape the present? Large parts of UK land are still owned by the aristocracy. Can her Majesty's government even pretend to right past wrongs when the monarchy itself is a symbol of unspeakable crimes against humanity?
Italian case (also present in many other civil law jurisdictions): you are sentenced in 2012 for sharing a music file. You are fined and jailed because so says the law in 2012. 2020, an act is passed that says that sharing a music file is no longer felony. fifteen days after the day that act has been enacted you can go to a court and say "ehi, I was just ahead of the time, clean my criminal records" and you will instantly get your records cleaned with a "il fatto non è previsto dalla legge come reato" sentence ("because that actions is no longer seen as a criminal offence under the current law"). In some rare cases you can also get money back from the state.
In the recent times this principle has been used to provide blanket pardon for things that once were felonies such as having or providing an abort, divorcing (abroad), opposing to draft, hiding jews from the police... You know, these things that change over time.
In the U.S., many (Presidential) pardons are used for crimes that everyone agrees were indeed committed, and even crimes for which we fully intend to continue prosecuting other people in the future!
In modern times we've pardoned people who we consider to be wrongly executed (including all soldiers executed for cowardice in the First World War) and people who have been wrongly executed for other crimes.
However, there is still a general principle that a pardon doesn't remove the original conviction but instead removes the punishment that was applied. So in the case of a miscarriage of justice there is a tendency to allow the conviction to be quashed by an appeal court rather than pardon someone (unless time is of the essence e.g. they are close to death and the appeal would take too long).
Pardons are indeed based on the idea of forgiveness. So, to issue a pardon would be to say that the person committed a crime and needed to be forgiven. Thus, it is possible a pardon may be inappropriate as it would send the wrong message.
It sounds like Italy has a different concept available, where things no longer considered crimes are no longer considered crimes, rather than sins that must be forgiven. I wonder if the same sort of principle is possible at all under English law.
In a way, they are the heroes or martyrs that that were indeed ahead of time and led to the society's change of heart regarding a certain law. Who knows how many laws we still have that 20-30 years were from now we'll just consider as stupid, irrational laws that shouldn't have existed.
Which so far as I can tell is what the disregard and deletion process that jgc describes in http://blog.jgc.org/2011/11/why-im-not-supporting-campaign-f... will achieve.
A pardon is not the same thing. Nothing to see here, move long :)
In many legislation such a favor rei mechanism is a funding principle and a tenet of law.
One reason is that there are other people, not just Alan Turing, who were convicted under this law, and are still living. They had a criminal record. However a new Act essentially deletes the criminal conviction for that part, so those people no longer have a criminal record.
Do they make it harder for people to travel to, eg, US ("Moral Turpitude" on visa waiver)? Do they count for job applications?
Certainly many people had their lives destroyed, and lived in fear. Ignorance and bigotry isn't dead either.
It's the same deal with being anti-nazi. Yeah, big deal, >99% of the worlds population has been with you for 70 years.
There's no excuse to get it wrong in the first place and I'm sure for the people concerned, a pardon is probably virtually irrelevant by the time they have issued it. Either the people are dead or their life is wrecked.
You're assuming that history is a linear ascent toward ever higher morality. What if it goes the other way?
To do so would be to accept that there is no definitive law at any present moment, and run the risk that individuals could be convicted in the future for activities which were perfectly legal at the time. This could have dire implications for both justice and personal liberty.
Besides which, your approach assumes the law that allows for chemical castration because he was gay was a legitimate application of state power. I maintain that it was not.
I can see the difference. But the similarity is (as I pointed out) that accepting either of them makes the case for the other stronger by removing a barrier - that barrier being the presumption that the law is fixed at a particular point in time.
> The first happens all the time and is the entire point of a full pardon.
I can't think of any examples of illegal acts being made retroactively legal (and certainly not "all the time"). Could you cite some examples for my benefit?
I think you're wrong about what a pardon is. A pardon is a way of publicly acknowledging that a (guilty) individual has fully repaid their debt to society. It's used explicitly to release people who have undoubtedly broken the law from the consequent obligations (i.e. prison/gallows) and is done at the behest of monarchs or their governments.
Pardons are a very thorny issue in general because they do not respect the notion that all individuals should be equal under the law. It would be unfair for a convicted murderer to escape the noose on the whim of a King (for example) while another murderer is left to hang. Similarly, pardoning Turing would not be fair on all the others who suffered under the same laws.
> your approach assumes the law that allows for chemical castration because he was gay was a legitimate application of state power.
I don't understand where you get that from.
Let society carry the black eye, not the victim.
Especially since they did pardon the soldiers who were shot for cowardice during WWI (admitably a little too late to do anything by about 90 years).
I really don't get why a country 'apologises' for past actions - I don't feel any tie whatsoever to the government / laws of the time / my fellow countrymen of years gone by and why me apologising would make any difference
Let people be responsible for their own actions and decisions.
The headline is slightly sensationalist because as the article points out, he was given a full, unreserved apology by the British Government in 2009.
A pardon would be recognition that the conviction was in itself wrong, even at the time (the paragraph of law that made sex between men was snuck into a bill of 1885 which dealt with sex crimes relating to young women. It took nearly 75 years to remove).
Even if it is impractical to pardon everyone, pardoning Turing would have made a very public statement alongside the 'Disregarding of convictions'.
I believe the statement would still be worth making and I would go further to include a few others, e.g. Oscar Wilde.
Note also that the bill specifically holds a paragraph to make exactly this kind of pardon possible:
87 Saving for Royal pardons etc.
Nothing in section 86 affects any right of Her Majesty, by
virtue of Her Royal prerogative or otherwise, to grant a
free pardon, to quash any conviction or sentence, or to
commute any sentence.
The law is not the definer of morality. The law is subject of morality, much in the same way as US laws are subject to the constitution, which is itself also subject to morality.
Thus the persecution of Alan Turing was itself a criminal act, in the eyes of anyone who accept morality (or at least the moral premise that consensual acts among adults that do not harm anyone are moral.)
The failure to pardon him -- that is, the failure to renounce the crime the government committed in the past-- shows the government to have as little regard for morality today as it did then.
This is confirmed by the manifold laws currently in place in that government that persecute people for "crimes" that are not immoral.
For example, the criminalization of drug use.
The thing that trips people up is that they're taught to believe that government is moral. Government is a collection of people, which engages in acts some of which are moral and some of which are immoral.
Since the law in question was immoral, thus enforcing it is a moral crime, and the governments failure to renounce such enforcement via issuing a pardon (and to be honest, paying some appropriate sum to the estate of the man in compensation, with interest) shows the government to be immoral to this day.
If it were a moral government, it would act morally, and remove the conviction while paying compensation for the crime.
And it would do so for every person prosecuted under this law.
The are many things considered morally wrong by enough people to make them illegal. Assisted Suicide is an example. If it ever becomes legal, should everyone who was arrested and convicted under the current laws be pardoned? many people today would find that immoral.
Some in other threads have a raised another good point, what about things that are now considered crimes? Should we retroactively prosecute these people?
In the case that you're confusing Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King, MLK was also not convicted by the British government of anything, and as this is a British government policy, I'm a little curious as to what relevance you feel this has on the discussion at hand...
…but lets not get into that—the last thing HN needs is another religious debate alongside those of iOS v Android and Node.js v everything.