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Benedict Cumberbatch urges William and Kate to help pardon historic ‘indecency’ convictions

In an open letter to Her Majesty’s government, actor Benedict Cumberbatch has urged The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to help influence the government in pardoning around 49, 000 men who have been convicted in the past for indecency laws regarding homosexuality.

Cumberbatch recently starred in The Imitation Game – the film based upon the life of Alan Turing, who, in 1952, was prosecuted for gross indecency. After his portrayal in the film, Cumberbatch is wishing to extend the pardon that Turing received in 2013 from The Queen to all men who have been prosecuted for their sexuality.

With the launch of this campaign via an open letter, Cumberbatch is supported by the likes of broadcaster Stephen Fry, his Imitation Game co-star and star of Downton Abbey Allen Leech, alongside Rachel Barnes, who is the niece of Alan Turing.

Turing is famous for his involvement in developing the machines which were able to successfully translate the Enigma codes during the Second World War. However, after being chemically castrated after being prosecuted under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, he committed suicide.

Under this law, it is estimated that around 49, 000 homosexual men were convicted. Those involved in the campaign have called this as “intolerable”.

Those backing the campaign wrote an open letter to the Government, and have called upon the ‘”young leaders” of the day, including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and politicans to overturn the convictions that have effected so many peoples’ lives.

Whilst the campaigners have hailed Turing as “one of the greatest heroes of the twentieth century”, the letter states that his pardon was welcomed, and yet it has not recognised all of the other men who have been treated similarly to Turing in the past.

The open letter states: “In 2009, an “unequivocal apology” for his (Turing’s) appalling treatment was issued by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.”

“Following the apology and after receiving a request from the justice secretary Chris Grayling, Queen Elizabeth II granted Alan Turing a posthumous pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in 2013. But Alan Turing was not alone.

“The apology and pardon of Alan Turing are to be welcomed but ignores over 49,000 men who were convicted under the same law, many of whom took their own lives. An estimated 15,000 men are believed to still be alive.

“The UK’s homophobic laws made the lives of generations of gay and bisexual men intolerable.

“It is up to young leaders of today including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to acknowledge this mark on our history and not allow it to stand.”

Cumberbatch has spoken greatly on the matter to the press over recent months. Speaking to Hollwood Reporter recently, the actor said: “Alan Turing was not only prosecuted, but quite arguably persuaded to end his own life early, by a society who called him a criminal for simply seeking out the love he deserved, as all human beings do.

“Sixty years later, that same government claimed to ‘forgive’ him by pardoning him. I find this deplorable, because Turing’s actions did not warrant forgiveness. Theirs did, and the 49,000 other prosecuted men deserve the same.”

Featured photo credit: GabboT via photopin cc

  • micmac

    Maybe so, but lobbying the government at this time may not be the most urgent role of Royalty at the moment. Especially when it and the govt are pitted against an alive and present danger in the form of a rabidly homophobic, racist and intolerant Daesh cult threatening its allies. Present gays may live their lives unmolested. But those in the past may need to remain there for now.

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