James Cusick

James Cusick: Britain's most televised barrister dons the disguise of Captain Slow

His disguise works best when the person on the receiving end gets too comfortable

Share
Related Topics

Barristers are masters of disguise. The wigs and gowns are mere theatre. Most advocates don't need them as they go about the business of inquisition, indignation, apology, persuasiveness and faked surprise. Robert Jay, QC, the Leveson Inquiry's leading counsel, is perhaps the most televised barrister in UK legal history. Rumpole, remember, was fictional.

Mr Jay's wig was left behind in his chambers and for the past six months he has been hiding behind a cardboard box and odd-looking spectacles. Nonetheless, his disguise is clear enough.

Mr Jay's job at the inquiry is not Socratic magic or the seduction of a jury. His role, like an updated Cicero, is to squeeze out of the inquiry's witnesses anything that might look or sound like the truth, and then leave it to Lord Leveson to do his report's reasoning.

Shock tactics are not required and Mr Jay hasn't used them. His disguise is to pretend to be slow. For a leading silk, shortlisted for "barrister of the year" last year and whose client list includes the Home Office, Defra, and the Secretary of State for Justice, armed with a First from New College Oxford, slow he isn't.

His disguise works best when the person on the receiving end gets too comfortable. The egos on parade at the inquiry have mostly obliged Mr Jay. There's usually nothing fancy at the start; a bit of intellectual wordplay in the middle; and the advocate's finale aimed at unravelling the preposterous. One shaken witness left the stand and asked: "What the hell just happened there?"

Occasionally Mr Jay's disguise as Captain Slow drops; he can't stop himself – in the same way criminal silks raise their eyebrows to the ceiling in view of the jury when a witness is evidently telling porkies.

Having been unable to prevent Rupert Murdoch from presenting himself to the inquiry as an aged sage with a fading memory, Mr Jay on Monday raised his eyes to the ceiling and reminded his lordship that he had a choice. If Mr Murdoch really did have no recollection, then mining further whatever he said would be pointless. But if the Dirty Digger was engaging in "selective amnesia" then, he said, Leveson had to ask what Mr Murdoch's motives and intentions were. News International reply yesterday sounded like this: why hadn't Mr Jay felled the old boy when he had the chance? The same question has been asked of Mr Jay when he did not pull on his hobnail boots, march forward, and give some witnesses a good kicking.

The answer to those who believe Robert Jay is ineffective lies in the confusion that the Leveson Inquiry is a criminal court. It isn't. The criminal bit may come soon enough. But for now Leveson is an inquiry trying not to step on the dangerous territory of the criminal courts. In this demilitarised judicial zone, Mr Jay has to avoid, as they sometimes say in the US courts, being seen to kick ass. But when the Leveson Report is finally published, and the political Kremlinologists go in search of the killer lines, I predict that the leading gold miner will be Robert Jay.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect