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Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 10:26 GMT
George Carman: King of the court

George Carman: Respected and feared in equal measures

Not many lawyers can claim that their jobs come anywhere near the public's perception of a glittering life packed with interesting cases.

But George Carman QC, the barrister who represented Mohamed al-Fayed in his libel case victory against former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton, is an exception.

After a particularly gruelling session in the witness box, one plaintiff told him that whatever award was given for a libel, being cross-examined by Carman would not make it worth it.
Respected and feared in equal measures for his sheer presence in court, his handling of juries and relentless cross-examinations have brought comparisons with the great 19th century advocates.

Mr Carman has become the UK's most famous lawyer outside the world of fiction.

Representing or challenging well-known people in a succession of high-profile cases has earned him this position. His involvement in well-publicised cases involving sportsmen has helped.

Libel Trial
Mr al-Fayed is just the latest. But his case comes after trials involving the former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, cricketers Imran Khan, Ian Bothan and Allan Lamb, and England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio.

It is not just sport, though. He does showbiz too. He won Elton John damages, successfully represented Ken Dodd on charges of income tax fraud, and did the same for Peter Adamson of Coronation Street on charges of indecent assault.

Jonathan Aitken, arriving at the Old Bailey to be sentenced earlier this year
Perhaps his most famous case of all involved EastEnders' Gillian Taylforth, who unsuccessfully sued The Sun for claiming she and Geoff Knights had peformed certain acts on and A1 slip road. Mr Carman represented the Sun. Taylforth lost.

And he does politics. It was to George Carman that the Guardian came when Mr Hamilton and a parliamentary lobbylist brought the "cash for questions" case which was withdrawn before going to court.

He represented Richard Branson in his libel battle with American lottery chief Guy Snowden. Branson won.

Ian Botham and Imran Khan, playing in happier days
And when disgraced former minister Jonathan Aitken took a libel suit against the Guardian, promising to use his trusty shield of truth, it was Mr Carman who cross-examined Aitken, on behalf of the paper. Aitken is currently serving 18 months for perjury.

Northern soul

George Carman was born in Blackpool, and entered a seminary at the age of 14 with the idea of becoming a priest. But he took up a scholarship to Oxford after National Service in the Army, and was called to the Bar in 1953.

Gillian Taylforth collapsed in court as verdict was being given
He started to practice on the Northern Circuit, moved south, and first came to prominence in 1979 defending the Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, at the Old Bailey. Thorpe was acquitted of conspiracy to murder in a trial which made Carman as famous as his client.

After a particularly gruelling session in the witness box, one plaintiff told him that whatever award was given for a libel, being cross-examined by Carman would not make it worth it.

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