Ruth Deech, Baroness Deech

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Ruth Baroness Deech

Ruth Lynn Deech, Baroness Deech, DBE (née Fraenkel; born 29 April 1943, Clapham, London) is a British academic,[1] lawyer, bioethicist and politician, most noted for chairing the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), from 1994 to 2002, and as the former Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford. Deech sits as a Crossbench peer in the House of Lords (2005–) and chaired the Bar Standards Board (2009–2014).

Early years[edit]

She was educated at Christ's Hospital school, then located in Hertford.[2][3]


The Ruth Deech Building, St Anne's College, Oxford

After graduating from St Anne's College, Oxford with a first in Law in 1965, she returned to the college in 1970 to be a tutorial fellow in Law, a post she retained until 1991 when she was elected principal of the college. She retired in 2004, and was succeeded by Tim Gardam. The college named the Ruth Deech Building, which was completed in 2005, after her.[4]

Deech held many other positions during her career; she served as Senior Proctor of the University of Oxford between 1985 and 1986, as a member of the University's Hebdomadal Council of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority from 1994 until 2002, and was appointed to a four-year term as a Governor[5] of the BBC in 2002, the same year that she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), in recognition of her work at the HFEA.[6]

After leaving St. Anne's, Deech was appointed the first Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education from 2004 to 2008, dealing with the resolution of student complaints at all UK universities.[7]

On 22 July 2005, it was announced by the House of Lords Appointments Commission that she would be made a life peer, sitting as a Crossbencher.[8] On 5 October 2005, she was created Baroness Deech, of Cumnor in the County of Oxfordshire, and introduced in the House of Lords on 25 October 2005.[9] She delivered her maiden speech on 24 November 2005.[10]

In 1999, The Observer newspaper named her as the 107th most powerful person in Britain, and in 2001, Deech was placed at no.26 in Channel 4's "The God List", which ranked "the fifty people of faith in Britain who exercise the most power and influence over our lives".[11] In November 2007, Deech published IVF to Immortality: Controversy in the Era of Reproductive Technology, with co-author Anna Smajdor.[12]

Deech was previously the Professor of Law at Gresham College in London, where she gave a series of public lectures on family relationships and the law.[13]

In December 2016 Deech argued that Jewish students at UK universities were subject to increasing anti-semitism.[14] She is a Patron of the activist group UK Lawyers for Israel.[15]

Deech chaired, for several years until a date in 2015, the Bar Standards Board, the regulatory body for barristers in England and Wales.

She was a member of the Jewish Leadership Council until 2010, was a Rhodes Trustee 1996-2006, and a founding Trustee of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Personal life[edit]

Ruth Fraenkel married John Deech in 1967. The couple have one daughter.

Deech is the daughter of the late historian and journalist, Josef Fraenkel (b. 1903, Ustrzyki Dolne, Poland) who fled Vienna and then Prague from the Nazis. He arrived in Britain on 3 September 1939, the day the Allies declared war on Germany. Several other members of her family were murdered in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Her first cousin is Maurice Frankel, Director of the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information.

World War II restitution[edit]

In 2008, it emerged that a 101-yr old Polish artist living in Kraków, Eugeniusz Waniek, had in his possession a set of silver cutlery which had once belonged to Deech's father's family, the Fraenkels. Waniek had been a (Polish Christian) neighbour and friend of the Fraenkels in pre-war Ustrzyki Dolne, a small town near the Polish/Ukrainian border. Deech's grandfather, Moses Fraenkel, had been a long-serving Mayor of the town.

Nazi German troops raided Ustzyki Dolne in September 1942, rounding up the town's large Jewish population. Deech's aunt, Helena Fraenkel, managed to pass a bundle of the silverware to Waniek for safekeeping, risking her life in doing so. Other Jews in the town were shot for refusing to hand over valuables. Helena was sent to her death in the Belzec concentration camp. Waniek looked after the silver, at one stage burying it in his garden to hide it from the Nazis, which would have also been punishable by death. He never saw the Fraenkels again.

When the story was uncovered by a neighbour of Waniek's, Marek Marko, and historian Professor Norman Davies in 2008, Deech and her British family visited the frail Waniek in his small Kraków apartment. He presented to them the silverware that he had kept in a drawer for 67 years. He died 8 months later, aged 102.

The story was covered by the Polish and British press, and was featured on BBC radio.[16][17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BBC News - Plea for end to 'discriminatory' titles for wives of lords and knights". BBC News. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  2. ^ "Baroness Ruth Deech at Christ's Hospital". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Desperate to have a baby? This is the woman who matters". The Independent. 6 October 1996. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  4. ^ "St Anne's Buildings)". Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  5. ^ [1] Archived 7 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "No. 56595". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 2002. p. 7.
  7. ^ "The Guardian profile". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  8. ^ [2] Archived 24 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "House of Lords - Minute". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  10. ^ "Lords Hansard text for 24 Nov 2005 (51124-06)". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  11. ^ [3] Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "OUP website". Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Gresham College". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  14. ^ Turner, Camilla (22 December 2016). "Some of Britain's top universities are becoming no-go zones for Jews, Baroness Deech claims" – via
  15. ^ "About us". UK Lawyers for Israel. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Article in the Jewish Chronicle, 10 October 2008". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  17. ^ "BBC Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent, 15 August 2009". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Article in Krakow Post, 2 September 2009". Krakow Post. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  19. ^ "Crossbenchers - Welcome". Archived from the original on 24 January 2002. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  20. ^ "St Anne's College, Oxford". Retrieved 20 November 2014.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Claire Palley
Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Tim Gardam