THE man who led the public inquiry into Britain’s press standards will be the new chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University.
Sir Brian Leveson takes on the role at the end of this month, succeeding Queen guitarist Brian May.
The 63-year-old lord justice of appeal will become the fifth chancellor of the university and is set for a formal inauguration ceremony at the Anglican cathedral in May.
Speaking to the Post this week, Liverpool-born Sir Brian said he was honoured and proud to be renewing his connection to the city.
He said: “This links me back to Liverpool, where I spent the first 43 years of my life.
“Liverpool is still with me in everything I do and when I moved to London in 1993 I felt I was betraying my roots, to an extent, though I knew it was inevitable I would have to move due to my work.
“I think of Liverpool with enormous affection.”
As a barrister and high court judge, the former Liverpool College pupil is widely respected in his field.
As well as acting as lead prosecution counsel in the trial of Rosemary West, he also presided over the trial of Paul Taylor and Michael Barton who were convicted of the racially-motivated murder of Huyton student Anthony Walker in 2005.
Having been appointed a high court judge in 2000 he was presiding judge of the Northern Circuit for five years.
He went on to be senior presiding judge for England and Wales before taking on the new role of chairman of the Sentencing Council in 2010.
The course of Sir Brian’s career was changed dramatically by his appointment, in the wake of the phone hacking revelations, by the Prime Minister to lead the inquiry which would come to bear his name.
Sir Brian said he hoped the process had increased the public’s understanding of how the UK media works.
He added: “I undertook the task and responsibility I was given and did it to the best of my ability.
“I did not realise it would necessarily end up where it has.”
The recommendations set out in his subsequent report are the subject of heated debate at Westminster, where the main parties disagree over whether to introduce statutory regulation of the press and what form it might take.
And adapting to changing priorities and new roles has been a key part of his long career, according to Sir Brian.
He added: “We have got to keep up to date and to keep on top of way in which the world changes.”
Although the pressures of work mean he rarely has the opportunity to return to Liverpool, Sir Brian has relatives across the city and in Wirral and said he has kept a “weather eye” on Merseyside events.
He added: “When I think of Liverpool I think of the character of the people, the spirit of Liverpudlians, the humour, the culture and the determination which sometimes flies in the face of convention.
“That is the Liverpool I know.”
Sir Brian’s formal links to the university stretch back to 2010 when he gave a public lecture on the criminal justice system.
Last year he was made an honorary fellow of LJMU, telling media students at his inauguration ceremony that journalists “fulfil a truly vital role in our society.”
Speaking about the chancellor’s role, he said: “It has no executive responsibility at all, it is ambassadorial.
“What I hope to be able to do is use the opportunities that it gives me to encourage the undergraduates and graduates to achieve their full potential.
“The more people that can be encouraged to extend their ambitions and the way in which they see themselves achieving their aims, the better it is for everyone.
“People from non-traditional backgrounds, first generation undergraduates with no family history of going to university, these are the people we want to see given opportunities.
“The ethos of the university, summarised in the phrase, ‘dream, plan and achieve’, is an enormously powerful message in seeking to encourage anyone, from any background, to benefit from higher education.”
Sir Brian taught law for nine years at the University of Liverpool while working as a barrister based in the city.
He said that experience had given him a valuable insight into the needs of students and the importance of universities being a central focus for their community.
He said: “I feel Liverpool John Moores University plays a big part in the city, and helps lots of its undergraduates to find work and find their feet.
“As a son of the city of Liverpool I have long been aware of the transformational impact of the university on the lives of so many generations of students.”