R.I.P. Rumpole of the Bailey

British novelist, playwright and ex-laywer John Mortimer died today. He was 85.

He was perhaps best known, and loved worldwide, as the inventor of the fictional character Rumpole of the Bailey whose legal philosophy was summed up in that magnificently witty phrase: “Crime doesn’t pay, but it’s a living.”

According to Amazon.ca:

“Before there was Quincy and The Practice, there was Rumpole. Rumpole of the Bailey is, quite simply, one of the finest television series, and it has served as a model for all law dramas that followed it. Edgy and satirical, Rumpole is based on John Mortimer’s books of the same name. A determined and committed criminal defense barrister (whose clients have included three generations of the Timson family, among others) at the Old Bailey (criminal court), esteemed actor Leo McKern portrays the antihero Rumpole. As champion of the downtrodden, the self-righteous Rumpole loves to get in trouble with his wife Hilda, his peers, the head of chambers, and judges, to name but a few. A connoisseur of Wordsworth, cigars, and cheap liquor, McKern’s usually disheveled Rumpole belies the character’s dry sense of humor and astute skill as a barrister (…)”


  1. From the CBC article: “In the 1960s, he acted for Penguin Books in the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial, and later successfully defended the Sex Pistols when their Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols album resulted in a lawsuit.”

  2. The BBC obit focuses on his legal career

    I was raised , educated and clothed almost entirely on the proceeds of cruelty, adultery and neglect

    Liberty is allowing people to do things you disapprove of

    His Strand award is now posthumous