John F Larkin, QC was appointed as Attorney General for Northern Ireland on 24 May 2010. As Attorney General he has a wide range of responsibilities and functions as detailed below:
Chief Legal Adviser to the Executive
As chief legal adviser to the government, the Attorney General advises on the most important and complex legal matters facing the Executive. The Office of the Attorney General has a separate staff from the Departmental Solicitor’s Office to allow detailed consideration of the matters referred and to allow the Attorney’s office to act as a revising chamber.
Litigation and legislation
The Attorney General’s Office will lead on litigation arising in matters on which the Office has provided advice on behalf of the Executive. The Office also has responsibility for the government civil panels. The Attorney has the power to refer any legislation where there is doubt about its vires to the Supreme Court.
Public Prosecution Service
The Attorney is responsible for the appointment of the Director and Deputy Director of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland. The Attorney is also consulted by the Director of Public Prosecutions on the annual report and amendments to the Code for Prosecutors. In other respects the Attorney has a consultative relationship with the Director. Under existing legislation the Attorney does not have superintendance of the Public Prosecution Service.
Section 8 Guidance
Under Section 8 of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2004, the Attorney is required to produce guidance for criminal justice organisations on the exercise of their functions in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.
Guardian of the rule of law
The Rule of Law is the foundation of a civilised society. As Guardian of the Rule of Law the Attorney has a responsibility to represent the public interest and ensure that all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with fundamental human rights.
Where a matter is before (or on appeal from) the Charity Tribunal, the Attorney General has power to intervene so as to represent the wider public interest in the public good performed by the charity concerned. The Attorney also has a role in consenting to references to the Charities Tribunal where the Charities Commission needs a question settled; in giving directions to the Charities Commission on its discretion to authorise ex gratia payments by charities; and in presenting petitions for the winding-up of charities. In addition there are requirements that the Attorney be consulted on various matters.
Neither we nor the Attorney General can provide legal advice to members of the public or business.