BACK in the 1980s Rumpole of the Bailey was a top TV series all over the world, and parts of his character were probably based on a Teignmouth barrister.
Bill Bloomfield who retired to the resort was a commanding figure around the law courts for many years, appearing in many headline grabbing cases.
A report in 1989 read: ‘He has many similarities to Rumpole – the same booming voice and a sense of humour that goes down well with juries.
Bill also bears quite a physical resemblance to the craggy Leo McKern who plays the character, and like Rumpole he was never afraid to stand up for himself in front of tyrant judges.
‘If it is true, then I am flattered because I think Horace is a great lawyer who always gives 100 percent for his clients he is defending, even if it made him unpopular.
‘But like him, I always knew that it was more important to impress the jury with your case than the judge,’ said 76 year-old Bill. During his peak years he was achieving an acquittal rate of of 85 per cent, against the national average of 51 per cent, and he admits his success did not impress some judges who tried to make life as difficult as they could for him.
‘Once I was told off publicly at a trial by a judge for arriving late when the train bringing me from London was held up by snow and ice during a severe winter.
‘It did not make me look too good in front of the jury, and I was incensed because it just was not my fault. He also ordered me to stay in the city every night during the case and not return to London.
‘I took the reprimand, but was seething underneath and saw the judge at the lunch break and told him he had been rude and had no right to tell me not to return to London each night.
‘I demanded a public apology in front of the jury, or I would take it further. When the court resumed he made a full retraction.’ During his many years at the bar, Bill appeared in everything from a rent tribunal to murder trials and took part in the famous Janie Jones vice case and the Spaghetti House siege trial.
He was an acknowledged expert in conspiracy, and his proudest moment came when he was chosen to appear at a tribunal into the activities of Idi Amin, who took control of Uganda in a military coup.
Before he was overthrown, the former Ugandan president Milton Obote, had been preparing to put Amin on trial for alleged murders. An inquiry with outside lawyers was set up by Amin to investigate impartially the claims, and Bill was commission counsel which meant sifting through all the evidence and presenting it to the judge.
He quickly came to the conclusion that all the charges were phony and had been trumped up by Obote, He warned Amin that even some of his ministers were probably still loyal to Obote and out to discredit him.
Amin had a reputation as an evil mass murderer who arranged the killing of hundreds, if not thousands, of his countrymen, but Bill disagrees.
In fact the pair became quite friendly, and Bill was so trusted he was even allowed to sit on on cabinet meetings to question suspect ministers.
‘I know most of the world thinks of him as a demented killer, but I believe virtually all the murders were carried out by Obote’s men to frame Amin.
‘He was certainly no worse that the average Third World dictator, and good deal better than most,’ was Bill’s verdict.