Sir Charles Gray (1942 -2022) was the leading libel lawyer of his generation, who as a barrister won the largest ever libel award for Lord Aldington against Nikolai Tolstoy and later delivered the judgment that destroyed David Irving’s reputation as a historian of the Third Reich.
He was born on 6 July 1942 , the son of an orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital. He was educated at Winchester College and Trinity College Oxford, where he was later made an honorary fellow. He was called to the Bar in 1966, taking silk in 1984, and was known for immense charm and a calm persuasive style as an advocate.
In 1987, when Lord Aldington, (formerly Brigadier Toby Law), was accused by Nikolai Tolstoy of being a war criminal who had handed over 70,000 Cossacks to the Red Army, Gray’s advocacy convinced the jury that Aldington had simply been a hard pressed officer following orders. The award of £1.5 million in damages was three times the previous highest award for libel.
He was not so successful when he was counsel for Jonathan Aitken in the 1997 Sword of Truth trial after it turned out Aitken had committed perjury., and the revelation that his client had been lying came as a great shock to Gray.
The next year he was appointed as a judge of the High Court. In 2000 came the David Irving case and Gray’s devastating judgment that destroyed Irving’s reputation as a historian of the Third Reich. Irving had sued the American academic Deborah Lipstadt and her publishers, Penguin, over her book Denying the Holocaust (1993), in which Lipstadt alleged Irving had distorted the historical record to cast Hitler in a favourable light and refute his responsibility for the Holocaust. Gray’s judgment ran to 334 pages (later published as a book) and said that Irving had an unparalleled knowledge of the Second World War but “had for his own ideological reasons ““persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence”.
He married Rosalind Macleod Whinney in 1968 and they had a son, Alexander, and a daughter Anya. That marriage was dissolved in 1990 and he married Susan Astor in 1995. She died in 1997 and he then married in 2001 Cynthia Elizabeth Selby. He retired as a judge in 2008.