17 Jan 2009

British writer and lawyer John Mortimer dies

7:19 am on 17 January 2009

British author and lawyer John Mortimer, the creator of legal television show "Rumpole of the Bailey", died after a long illness on Friday. He was 85.

Mortimer, who also appeared as a defence lawyer in many cases involving freedom of speech, was a prolific writer, penning a host of novels, plays and film scripts.

As well as the popular fictional barrister Horace Rumpole, whom he created for television in the 1970s, Mortimer wrote many screenplays including the hugely successful small-screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited shown in 1981.

Actor Timothy West, who portrayed Rumpole in BBC radio dramas, said Mortimer had achieved "a huge amount in life not only as a writer but as a QC (lawyer)."

"His creation of Rumpole is in a way a sort of expansion of all the things he did and liked to do when he was practising law himself," he told Sky News.

As a lawyer Mortimer successfully defended Oz magazine against charges of obscenity in 1971, the BBC said, while he also acted for Penguin Books when they published DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover in the 1960s.

His spokeperson said Mortimer, who was knighted by the Queen in 1998, died at his home with his family around him.