British Obscenity Case Defender Dies

Nikki Tang
LONDON — Sir John Mortimer, an author and barrister who defended several publications against censorship and charges of obscenity in the 1970s, died in London Friday morning at the age of 85.

Under his motto, “never plead guilty,” Mortimer represented a number of high-profile censorship cases. Some of his notable clients include Gay News magazine and the radical Oz magazine.

“He was a great fighter, a great figure,” said Mortimer’s friend and fellow novelist Margaret Drabble. “His record in defending literature and attacking censorship was absolutely brilliant.”

Mortimer, known for his wit and one-liners, is the father of mainstream actress Emily Mortimer, as well as several other children.

In addition to law, his work included numerous scripts, plays and novels, which he continued to write up until his death. His most famous work is “Rumpole of the Bailey,” a British TV series starting Leo McKern. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the arts in 1998.