David Maxwell Fyfe


David Maxwell Fyfe | Date: 1954 | Press Association | 15492

Sir David Maxwell Fyfe was a British Conservative politician, lawyer and judge who combined a legal career with politics as Solicitor General, Attorney General, Home Secretary and Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.

It was as Home Secretary that David Maxwell Fyfe oversaw the crackdown on homosexual men in Britain. Prior to becoming Home Secretary he was one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials and was instrumental in drafting the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Home Secretary his decisions were often controversial, such as his decision not to grant clemency to Derek Bentley. He was removed from Government in 1962 by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, during a Cabinet reshuffle.

For the homosexual community he was a puzzling figure at the time of the purges, for he as Home Secretary was responsible for setting up the Wolfenden Committee and giving it the job of reviewing the laws surrounding homosexuality. Then, elevated to the House of Lords, he led the opposition to implementing the findings of the very same Committee he had set up!

As late as 1965 – just two years before the 67 Act – he still opposed law reform for homosexuals, saying he was against licensing ‘buggers’ clubs’ which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London and telling Sir Robert Boothby that it was not his intention to legalise homosexuality: “I am not going down in history as the man who made sodomy legal.”

Not exactly a gay icon, then, he died in January 1967, so he did not live to see the 67 Act being passed.



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