January 16, 2009 / 1:46 PM / 10 years ago

British writer and lawyer John Mortimer dies

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British author and lawyer John Mortimer, the creator of legal television show “Rumpole of the Bailey,” died on Friday aged 85, his spokeswoman said.

Mortimer, who also appeared as a defense 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 practicing law himself,” he told Sky News.

As a lawyer he 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 spokeswoman said Mortimer, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1998, had died after a long illness at his home with his family around him.

Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato

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