BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Libel lawyer Carman retires
George Carman QC
George Carman QC: Turning his hand to writing
The renowned libel lawyer George Carman QC has announced he is to retire.

The 70-year-old barrister, who has been described as the most fearsome lawyer in Britain, said he had taken the decision reluctantly on doctor's orders and would be requiring medical treatment.

Mr Carman is probably best-known for representing the Guardian against the former Conservative MP Jonathan Aitken and Mohamed al-Fayed in his libel case victory against former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton.

His reputation is certainly well-deserved

Neil Hamilton
He said he intended to use his time to write a book about his experiences of the law.

"I would like to thank the clerks who have looked after me so well and the great support and kindness shown by all my professional colleagues," Mr Carman said.

"It has been a privilege to have practised at the Bar for 47 years and I hope this great profession continues to flourish."

'Scary Silk'

Mr Carman is acclaimed for his formidable cross examination technique which tends to leave those who experience it quaking in the witness box.

In December's libel case involving Mohamed al-Fayed and Neil Hamilton he was dubbed "Scary Silk" against "Posh Silk" - his old adversary Desmond Browne QC, the grandson of the Earl of Bessborough, appearing for the disgraced former Tory minister.

Gillian Taylforth
Gillian Taylforth: Lost her case against The Sun
Mr Hamilton who once described Mr Carman as the "most fearsome advocate in the land" said the barrister would be missed by the legal profession.

Recalling his failed libel action Mr Hamilton said: "I enjoyed my jousting with him in the witness box... I salute him as a worthy adversary.

"One has got to admit he is a phenomenon of his time and the Bar will be the poorer for his retirement.

"His reputation is certainly well-deserved," he added.

Aitken disgraced

Mr Carman has also represented the former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, cricketers Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Allan Lamb, and England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio.

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
Jonathan Aitken: Sentenced to 18 months for perjury
One of his most famous cases involved EastEnders' Gillian Taylforth, who unsuccessfully sued The Sun for claiming she and Geoff Knights had performed sexual acts on an A1 slip road.

Mr Carman represented the Sun.

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

But Mr Carman's defence of the Guardian newspaper when disgraced former minister Jonathan Aitken took a libel suit against it, was one of his most celebrated cases.

Aitken was sentenced to 18 months for perjury.

Priesthood ambition

George Carman was born in Blackpool, and entered a seminary at the age of 14 with the intention 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.

He started to practice on the Northern Circuit before moving south.

Jeremy Thorpe
Jeremy Thorpe: His case made Carman's name
Three times married and three times divorced he is said to enjoy the company of women without being a womaniser.

He first came to prominence in 1979 defending the Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, at the Old Bailey.

Mr Thorpe was acquitted of conspiracy to murder in a trial which made Mr 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 Mr Carman would not make it worth it.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

29 Aug 00 | UK
Victims of the 'silver fox'
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories