YouGov: Two thirds of public say pardon men convicted of gross indecency

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Two in three voters believe the UK Government should pardon all men convicted of gross indecency under anti-gay laws, a YouGov poll has found.

The family of WWII code breaker Alan Turing visited No 10 Downing Street on Monday, demanding pardons for the 49,000 men prosecuted for homosexuality by the government during the 20th century.

A petition calling for the pardons to be granted has reached over 600,000 signatures.

In a poll conducted by YouGov, two-thirds of British people (65%) said the government should pardon the men it prosecuted for gross indecency before 1967, while 21% say it should not.

A quarter (25%) of Conservatives and over a third (37%) of UKIP voters oppose issuing pardons, compared to 14% of Labour voters.

The offence of gross indecency was only removed from the statute book in 2003, although consensual sexual behaviour between men had been decriminalised to some extent by 1967.

Sex between more than two men was a criminal offence until 2000.

YouGov also surveyed attitudes to homophobia. It found people are far more likely to say that society has become less homophobic in the past 20 years (70%) than they are to say it has become less racist (39%).

On anti-Semitism, people are more likely to say there has been no change than either a change for better or worse.

However, YouGov stated that it could just be that people see LGBT rights as having had further to come: equal proportions of people now say they often encounter homophobic behaviour (28%) as say they often encounter racist behaviour (27%).

Alan Turing, often hailed as the grandfather of modern computing, was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 after having sex with a man, and was chemically castrated, barred from working for GCHQ.

Turing died in 1954 from cyanide poisoning. His death was ruled a suicide – although Turing expert Professor Jack Copeland claimed in 2012 that it could have been an accident.

An apology for the state’s treatment of Alan Turing was issued by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009, and the Queen in 2013 granted a rare posthumous pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.