New attorney general John Larkin 'may need more powers'

Image caption,
The Attorney General, John Larkin QC said it was a great honour to be appointed

The new attorney general for Northern Ireland has said he might not have all the powers he needs.

John Larkin was appointed on Monday as the first NI attorney general for 37 years.

Unlike his direct rule predecessor, Mr Larkin will not have any powers of supervision over the Public Prosecution Service.

"It's something that should be urgently looked at I think," Mr Larkin said.

"The decisions about unduly lenient sentences, about other forms of statutory obligation, which were taken by the attorney are no longer taken by the attorney.

"So the reason for that isn't entirely clear to me at least."

Mr Larkin's appointment was announced by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The attorney general NI will be the government's chief legal adviser. He has been appointed to the post for a term of four years.

As a barrister, Mr Larkin represented many senior local political figures.


Peter Robinson said he welcomed Mr Larkin's appointment.

"Whilst we are grateful to successive attorneys general who took a genuine interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland, having a local Attorney clearly places the rule of law at the very heart of government here in Northern Ireland," he said.

Martin McGuinness described the appointment as an "historic one" which puts in place an independent, non-political, local attorney general.

"This appointment puts in place a key element in taking forward the newly transferred justice powers," he added.

The attorney general will be responsible for appointing the director and deputy director of public prosecutions.

He will also require the director to prepare an annual report on how he has exercised his functions, and will arrange for that report to be published and to be laid before the assembly.

As a barrister, Mr Larkin represented Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson and other senior political figures.

He is a member of the Bar Council human rights advisory committee and trained the life sentence review commissioners in human rights matters.

The devolution of justice to Stormont, meant the Attorney General for England and Wales was no longer responsible for Northern Ireland.

The appointment was made under the provisions of the Justice (NI) Act 2002.

The attorney general has a range of statutory and non-statutory responsibilities.

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