Lord Dervaird | Uncredited | Public | 16021
Lord Dervaird, the judge who resigned over the so-called “magic circle” gay sex scandal of 1989 has died, aged 80. He admitted being “indiscreet” when he resigned from the Court of Session as a newspaper prepared to print a story about him. Claims of a conspiracy between homosexual judges, sheriffs and lawyers had rocked the Scottish legal world. It was alleged the men involved had let criminals off lightly due to fears of blackmail over their sex lives.
It led to the launching of an inquiry by then prime minister John Major, under William Nimmo Smith, the prominent QC, who found no evidence to support any of the gay conspiracy claims, but in his 1993 report he commented on Dervaird: “It would not be untrue that he had had homosexual relations.”
Lord Dervaird was born John Murray in Stranraer, studied law at Oxford and became a QC in 1974. He became a Judge of the Court of Session in 1988 and took the title Lord Dervaird.
The magic circle claims were made the next year. There was an existing police investigation into alleged links between senior public figures and rent boys. Nimmo Smith concluded he had “no reason to believe that Lord Dervaird’s official conduct as a judge had in any way been affected by the matters which led to his resignation”.
The late Edinburgh lawyer Robert Henderson was subsequently identified as being behind the magic circle claims, and was later exposed as a child abuser by his daughter.