Hague: Prosecution of Alan Turing was ‘completely wrong’ but I can’t pardon him

William Hague during his speech at Bletchley Park
William Hague during his speech at Bletchley Park

THE treatment of codebreaking genius Alan Turing was ‘completely wrong,’ Foreign Secretary William Hague told this newspaper today.

During a visit to Bletchley Park, The Citizen questioned Mr Hague as to whether he believed the man who cracked the Enigma code should be pardoned.

Captain Jerry Roberts

Captain Jerry Roberts

In 1952, Mr Turing was convicted of gross indecency with another man and punished by chemical castration. Just two years later he committed suicide, aged just 41.

A national campaign – backed by this newspaper – has called for the Government to pardon him.

Mr Turing was one of the key figures at Bletchley Park during the Second World War and led the team which eventually cracked the Enigma code – a success many attribute as the turning point in the war.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown formally apologised to Mr Turing’s family in 2009, but earlier this year Justice Minister Lord McNally refused to grant him a pardon.

He told the House of Lords that Mr Turing had been convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence.

Questioned today Mr Hague praised the mathematical genius as ‘one of the great heroes,’ but said it wasn’t within his power to pardon him.

“In public opinion and in Government opinion he is one of the great heroes,” Mr Hague said.

“I have not got an announcement today, but I will take that as a point to raise.

“I think these days it would be completely different. For all of us today that is completely wrong.

“As Foreign Secretary it is not my department to issue pardons.”

Bletchley Park veterans, who packed the Mansion House to listen to Mr Hague’s speech, were full of praise for Mr Turing.

Charlotte Webb, who went to work at Bletchley Park aged just 18, said: “He clearly deserves recognition.

“It was his 100th anniversary this year and more people know about him than four or five years ago.”

And Captain Jerry Roberts, who worked on the Lorenz – or ‘Tunny’ – cipher machine, said Mr Turing was one of three heroes from Bletchley Park.

He also named Bill Tutte, who broke the Tunny system, and Tommy Flowers who designed and built the ‘Colossus’ machine.

Speaking of his own work at the Park, Captain Roberts added: “It was almost a miracle that Bill Tutte broke that.

“In the last 18 months of the war we were breaking 90 per cent of the traffic.”