The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has issued a government apology for the homophobic hounding of the wartime codebreaker, Alan Turing. Despite Turing's central role in cracking German codes, he was driven to suicide in the 1950s by criminal prosecution and “medical treatment” imposed in response to his sexuality.
After more than 31,000 people signed a petition calling for an apology, Brown agreed that Turing's treatment was “appalling”.
“So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work, I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better” said Brown.
The news was welcomed by campaigners who had launched and supported the petition, including the computer scientist John Graham-Cumming, the human rights activist Peter Tatchell and the novelist Ian McEwan.
Turing is regarded as a mathematical genius whose work helped to lay the foundations for the rise of computers. In 1952, he was charged with “gross indecency” because of a sexual relationship with a man.
His security authorisation was revoked and he was subjected to hormone treatment - or “chemical castration” - as an alternative to prison. Two years later he killed himself, aged 41.
Peter Tatchell described today's apology as “commendable” but emphasised that it was not enough to say sorry for only one case of homophobic persecution.
“A similar apology is due to the estimated 100,000 British men who were also convicted of consenting, victimless same-sex relationships during the twentieth century” he said.