Reader’s letter: Sir David Maxwell Fyfe led the persecution of gay men
As a regular reader of your newsletter I was deeply disappointed to see the feature on the proposed exhibition about Sir David Maxwell Fyfe make no mention of his record as Home Secretary.
Whilst many readers will be familiar with his work as a prosecutor at Nuremberg and in drafting the European Convention on Human Rights, fewer are likely to know that his tenure as Home Secretary coincided with the arrest and conviction of Alan Turing for “gross indecency”, as a result of which Turing was chemically castrated a few years before taking his own life.
Indeed Maxwell Fyfe was personally responsible for directing a huge increase in entrapment and arrest of gay men in England by police, resulting in over a thousand having been imprisoned by the time he left office. This crackdown left gay men throughout the country living in constant fear and it is impossible to know the extent of misery and suicide it created. The government of course has since apologised for these historic policies, recognising how wrong they were.
Maxwell Fyfe’s work at Nuremberg and on the ECHR is unquestionably commendable and to be celebrated, but it would be deeply misleading for him to be portrayed in only that light without recognition of the enormous damage done to the lives of literally thousands of men at his behest.