Northern Ireland

David Ford to consult on attorney general PPS oversight

Justice Minister David Ford is to ask people's views on whether to give the attorney general powers to oversee the Public Prosecution Service.

He confirmed the consultation would be held in answer to an assembly written question from TUV leader Jim Allister.

Unlike his direct rule predecessor, John Larkin does not have any powers of supervision over the PPS.

Mr Allister said he was worried about making the office of attorney general too powerful.

"I think we have an attorney general whose accountability leaves something to be desired," he said.

"That's not a personal criticism of him, it's a criticism of the system of which he is an important cog.

"I think that if you compound that by then adding to his empire of powers then you leave an even greater deficit in terms of accountability."

No appeal powers

John Larkin was appointed as Northern Ireland attorney general following the transfer of justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.

The attorney general has responsibility for scrutinising legislation of the Stormont assembly, along with the appointments of the director and deputy director of public prosecutions.

However, the lack of PPS oversight powers means the attorney general could not appeal unduly lenient sentences or initiate criminal proceedings.

Addressing the Stormont justice committee last July, Mr Larkin said: "If something is perceived by the Assembly to have gone wrong, either generally or with the PPS, there is no mechanism at present for that to be addressed."

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