Leveson inquisitor Robert Jay to become one of Britain's senior judges

He was named barrister of the year for 2012 by The Lawyer magazine

Robert Jay, the dictionary-brained barrister whose studiously polite inquisition of witnesses made him one of the stars of the Leveson Inquiry, is to become one of Britain's senior judges.

The bearded QC, who was the leading counsel for the inquiry into press ethics and led the televised grilling of many celebrities and journalists, was among three new High Court judges whose appointments were announced today.

Media speculation that the 53-year-old barrister will take over responsibility for hearing the civil damages claims arising from the News of the World phone hacking scandal was rapidly quashed by officials, who pointed out that Mr Justice Jay will sit in a different division of the High Court.

Starting next month, the barrister will sit in the Queen's Bench division, which deals with matters including judicial reviews and civil actions for personal injuries. The phone hacking cases are being heard in the Chancery Division and will pass to a different judge after Mr Justice Vos moves to the Court of Appeal.

Jay, an Oxford graduate who was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1998 and has served as a recorder since 2000, had led a distinguished though largely unremarked career until his appointment as the chief inquisitor to the Leveson Inquiry made him Britain's most televised barrister.

Though criticised for what some saw as a less than forceful questioning style with some witnesses, the barrister was elsewhere lauded for entertaining performances that included bravura displays of his rich vocabulary, including such lexical oddities as "propinquity" and "bailliwick".

Within the legal profession he was widely praised for his work and was named barrister of the year for 2012 by The Lawyer magazine.

Jay is not the only figure from the Leveson Inquiry who may yet receive a judicial promotion.

The Independent reported last year that Sir Brian Leveson had told colleagues he intends to apply for the role of Lord Chief Justice - the head of the judiciary - when it falls vacant later this year.

Interviews for the job, currently occupied by Lord Judge, are expected to be held in July.

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