Derek Ogg: The life of a brave and courageous man

People like Derek Ogg made Scotland a more tolerant country, writes Bernard Ponsonby.

Derek Ogg: The life of a brave and courageous man Optimum Advocates

The tragic death of Derek Ogg at the age of 65 has robbed the Scottish bar of one of its most logical and rational minds. 

In a court system where rhetorical flourish and occasional ham acting are all too evident, Derek Ogg proved to be an eloquent advocate who utilised the power of rational thought whether as a prosecutor or defence counsel.

His passing is also a time to reflect on the life of a brave and courageous  man who in the 1980s was in the vanguard of the fight against AIDS in Scotland and who campaigned relentlessly for human rights for gay people. 

In the socially repressed Scotland of the time it would take a full 13 years after England and Wales for homosexuality to be decriminalised. 

People like Derek Ogg played a huge part in creating a more tolerant country and he did it in a highly judgemental atmosphere that could have proven detrimental to his career prospects

In the days when the tabloids railed about a ‘gay plague’ and whipped up hysteria which in turn fed homophobia, Derek Ogg was the voice of sanity as he gained a national profile in pursuit of a mission which was about debunking prejudice.

In TV programmes he deployed a mixture of bludgeoning logic, fantastic articulacy and occasional charm to steer an audience to the path of a sane response to what at the time seemed an insane situation.

His mind was made for the law and the law appealed to his sense that at its best it offered remedies rooted in justice.

He served as an Advocate Depute and as a defence counsel all the time applying common sense to the evidence in a case.

In an echo of his days fighting prejudice against gay people he spoke out regularly on public policy positions on issues like corroboration and evidence in sexual offence cases. He was fearless and was relaxed that authority might find his observations uncomfortable.

His contributions were marked by a lack of hysteria and the application of a keen mind that only ever embraced what made sense. His words cut through rhetoric, political posturing and above all the fashion for populism in legal matters.

His legacy is a solid body of achievement in the human rights field and a contribution to our court system which lessened the possibility that injustice might win the day.