“Never plead guilty!”
John Mortimer, author of the deeply loved Rumpole of the Bailey, has died today at the age of 85. It’s an event that can’t really be missed on a law student’s blog because it was a very good legal drama and it’s a shame to see Mortimer bow out along with Leo McKern, the face of Rumpole.
Mortimer, as well as a prolific author, was also a practicing family and later criminal barrister. He experienced the two very different fields and later remarked:
“Matrimonial clients hate each other so much and use their children to hurt each other in beastly ways. Murderers have usually killed the one person in the world that was bugging them and they’re usually quite peaceful and agreeable.”
This is a wise word for anyone who’s looking at fields to enter from law school.
Although his health was failing in his later years it did not stop Mortimer from writing and he was in the process of dictating (his eyesight became too poor to continue writing in longhand himself) a book when he died, he only had “three or four chapters written”. This is a great loss of a talented barrister and a talented comedy writer, of which there can never be too many, whose works are probably some of the earliest popular entertainment which concentrated on humanising the legal process and providing a very necessary accessible insight into the profession.
Mortimer was also a strong advocate of free speech and civil liberties while at the same time, to quote his autobiography, he was “the best playwright ever to have defended a murderer at the Central Criminal Court.” His like is always needed in the profession.