He was educated at King's College School, a private fee paying school for boys in Wimbledon in South West London. He won an Open Scholarship to New College, Oxford, where he obtained a first in jurisprudence. He was a contemporary of the later actor and film star Hugh Grant. He undertook pupillage with Simon D. Brown (now Baron Brown of Eaton-Under-Heywood).
Life and career
Jay was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1981. From 1989 to 1998 he was one of the Junior Counsel to the Crown (Common Law). He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1998. He was a recorder from 2000 to 2013 and was approved to sit as a deputy High Court judge. He was counsel to the Leveson Inquiry into phone-hacking and media ethics, when he came to public attention due to televising and other reporting. On 4 June 2013, he was appointed a High Court judge, receiving the customary knighthood in the 2013 Special Honours, and was assigned to the Queen's Bench Division.
During the Leveson inquiry, Jay became publicly known for his use of rarely used words — such as condign, pellucidly and adumbrate — for highlighting apparent discrepancies in witnesses' emailed descriptions of events, and possible collusion between witnesses, as “light refracted through two intermediate prisms”, and for asides such as “I’m beginning to sound irritated, but I am”. At one point, he was seen to mouth to colleagues: "This is such fun”.
In April 2019 Jay was the judge in the fraud trial of four former Barclays bankers (Varley and others) over the bank's Middle Easter fundraising during the financial crisis of 2008. They were accused of paying millions of pounds in secret fees. After months of hearings in the Crown Court at Southwark, Jay made a terminating ruling, discharging the jury.
In May 2019, the Court of Appeal adopted his own terminology, describing one of Jay's own judgments as being hardly “pellucid." As well as levelling this mocking criticism at his legal writing, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal on every ground raised, including the ground that Jay had been so overbearing, rude, and bullying to the claimant (whose first language was not English but Polish, and who was acting without legal help), that the trial had been unfair.
Jay and his wife Deborah, who is an author, have a daughter.
- "Senior judiciary". List of members of the judiciary. Judicial Office. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
- Fifty shades of Jay... Robert Jay QC becomes star of Leveson Inquiry Authors: Susannah Butter and Emilie McMeekan. Publisher: London Evening Standard. Published: 29 June 2012. Retrieved: 24 February 2014.
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- "High Court Appointment – Jay" (Press release). Ministry of Justice. 8 May 2013. Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- "No. 60525". The London Gazette. 4 June 2013. p. 10985.
- List of Knights Bachelor, thegazette.co.uk; accessed 5 September 2015.
- Robert Jay, Leveson's forensic inquirer, prepares to face Rupert Murdoch Author: Lisa O'Carroll. Publisher: The Guardian. Published: 22 April 2012. Retrieved: 24 February 2014.