Mr Motorsports - the St Albans lawyer with F1 flair

Peter Goodman at a Nascar race in Charlotte, North Carolina in around 2005.

Peter Goodman at a Nascar race in Charlotte, North Carolina in around 2005. - Credit: Courtesy Peter Goodman

He's defended a serial killer and international motorsports company and represented celebrities including Kate Winslet, Liz Hurley, Shirley Bassey, Jeremy Clarkson and Hugh Grant, but locally he's best known for his 16-year stint with St Albans Chamber of Commerce.

Peter Goodman is now stepping down from the Chamber board after a tenure which included three stints as President and Vice President, and chose this occasion to take a look back on what he describes as and "extraordinary and quite bizarre career".

Now working as a consultant for St Albans solicitors SA Law, his biog describes him as "an experienced corporate and commercial lawyer with a niche specialism in sports and entertainment".

But this barely scratches the surface.

Working as a criminal lawyer between 1968 and 1986 saw Peter defending the St Albans Poisoner Graham Young, who laced the food and drink of his family and friends with thallium and antimony.

He recealled: "I was on one of my visits to see him in Brixton Prison and he suddenly offered me a sweet. I looked at him, he looked at me and said: 'Well Peter I wouldn’t poison my lawyer, would I?'

"I thought 'Well you poisoned your father, mother, aunt and closest colleagues at work, why wouldn’t you poison your lawyer?'

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"However I was a macho man in his early 20s so I ate the sweet and stayed close to a phone the next few days."

Peter was also involved in prosecuting a gang of major armed robbers caught in Hemel, and being involved in prosecuting and defending major international drug smuggling cases, including the 20-plus tonnes of cannabis in which Howard "Mr Nice" Marks was a defendant.

Peter Goodman with Dario Franchitti

Peter Goodman with Dario Franchitti, his winning car and the Borg Warner trophy after his first Indy 500 victory in May 2007. Dario was one of Peter's friends and clients for around 20 years. - Credit: Courtesy Peter Goodman

He then worked as an international motorsports lawyer, which saw him negotiating and drafting contracts with six F1 champions including Prost, Senna and Mansell, and defending Williams Racing in the manslaughter trial arising from the death of Ayrton Senna in Italy.

"The Senna trial was a whole compilation of weird experiences including taking statements in Bologna with the Italian police. They delayed our flight back to London until we were finished. The drive back was crazy. Damon Hill was the driver of my car, the other was driven by an Italian police driver who clearly thought it was a race.

"The trial started in February 1997 and ran until December 1997 – a day here, two days there, long gaps. It was a lot of days away, nearly 100 international flights and flying around Europe to take statements from various people including Michael Schumacher and Gerhard Berger."

His other anecdotes include the occasion in 1998 when he was effectively arrested by Italian immigration police in Milan - alongside driver David Coulthard and his father: "This was just before the Monza GP,  the race immediately after the Spa GP in which David crashed into Michael Schumacher driving for Ferrari. No coincidence there!"

Apart from that it was endless glamour: "Flying into Nice airport in the cockpit of a private jet and then the helicopter to the Monaco GP. Staying in billionaires’ houses in the USA. Private motor museums. Five star hotels. At different times I advised six other F1 teams including McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus, and acted for quite a few successful drivers including Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard, Allan McNish and Paul di Resta."

After leaving the high-octane world of motorsports, Peter found himself working in sports and celebrity management with various A-list celebs, was manager and lawyer to Richard Burns, England’s only ever winner of the World Rally Championship, and enjoyed success with US motorsports drivers including six victories in the Indianapolis 500.

Peter Goodman after winning the Senna manslaughter case.

Peter Goodman talking to the media in the courtroom in Imola in December 1997 immediately after winning the Senna manslaughter case. - Credit: Courtesy Peter Goodman

But none of this has overshadowed his work with St Albans Chamber of Commerce, which saw him hosting the likes of Terry Waite at the annual St George's Day lunch. 

"When I arrived in St Albans aged 17, I’d lived in six countries on three continents. The district has now been my home for the last five decades, and it’s good to be able to give something back.

"I've always enjoyed my work locally. I was a commercial lawyer drafting contracts for local business people. My international motorsports persona did exactly the same work but the size of the contracts was massively higher and the surroundings often more glamorous.

"Most of the people I worked with in motorsports were business people just like those on St Albans, easy to be with and a pleasure to work with. There were some who were none of those things, but that applied locally as well!"