Libel lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck dies aged 89

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Peter Carter-Ruck, the libel lawyer best known for his legal battles with the satirical magazine Private Eye, has died aged 89.

Mr Carter-Ruck died peacefully in his sleep at his home near Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, on Friday night after a short illness, his daughter Julie Scott-Bayfield said yesterday.

In a career spanning six decades, Mr Carter-Ruck represented stars and public figures including Laurence Olivier, Spike Milligan, Harold Wilson, Cary Grant, Lucian Freud, Enoch Powell, Cecil Parkinson and Edwina Currie.

He founded Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners in 1982 but retired as a partner in 1998.

Andrew Stephenson, a senior partner at the firm, paid tribute to him as a man of "great charm" with a dry sense of humour who was devoted to his family and his work.

"It's very sad for us all," he said. "I worked very closely with him for many years and learnt a great deal from him. He always set the highest standards in terms of the service he gave to clients. It really was an outstanding example of how to conduct litigation.

"When he was working with clients in stressful situations he had the ability to see the funny side. That made it a pleasure to work with him."

Mr Carter-Ruck was vilified for more than 20 years by Private Eye for his success in taking legal action against the satirical magazine. Mr Stephenson said Mr Carter-Ruck had a "love-hate relationship" with Private Eye. "Underlying it was a great deal of respect," he said.

One of the very few high-profile cases that he lost involved his client Jani Allan, the South African journalist who sued Channel 4 over allegations that she had an affair with the extremist Afrikaaner leader Eugene Terre'Blanche. Her defeat in 1992 left her with legal costs of £300,000. Mr Carter-Ruck said afterwards: "The only certainty in litigation is the expense. There is always a risk in going to court and you have to have very good judgement. I settle on more than 90 per cent of the cases I am asked to advise on."

His final years at Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners were marred by a bitter dispute with his fellow partners over the future of the firm. On his retirement as senior partner, he consulted an outside law firm before following his own advice and settling the dispute before it reached court.

In March this year Mr Carter-Ruck's wife of 52 years, Ann, died. "They were devoted to each and I'm sure that was a great loss. I know it was very difficult for him," Mr Stephenson said.