The Christmas Eve royal pardon for Alan Turing, the mathematician proclaimed as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, came almost exactly one year after physicist Stephen Hawking and 10 other notable scientists wrote a letter urging the Queen to "formally forgive" Turing for his conviction in 1952 under the law in effect at the time against homosexuality. Turing had pled guilty and submitted to chemical castration. In 1954 he committed suicide.
The royal pardon has been widely praised worldwide. It has also been criticized as too little, too late ("When does Turing get to pardon the Crown?"), and has generated some thoughtful commentary on pardons in general. One recurring theme is that pardons should be extended to all those convicted under the old law, not just to a single exceptional famous person. Another is that there is nothing, in fact, to "pardon" if a law under which someone has been convicted has been rejected as unjust; in such cases, the act for which someone has been convicted shouldn't be "pardoned," it should be officially erased as a criminal act. The English last year enacted a new law, the Protection of Freedoms Act, that does just that -- provided you are still alive. So those lucky enough to outlive the reconsidered law get better than a pardon, but those who do not may not even get a pardon, unless they have done something extraordinary, like inventing computer science. This New Statesmen piece from July of 2013, urges amending the Protection of Freedoms Act to make it retroactive.
HT: The Dish