Northern Ireland

MLAs told of attorney general's job limitations

John Larkin QC
Image caption Attorney General John Larkin was sworn in earlier this month

The NI attorney general has told MLAs they may not get a proper explanation if something goes wrong with an important prosecution.

John Larkin also repeated his concerns about his lack of oversight powers over the Public Prosecution Service.

Mr Larkin made his comments as he gave evidence before the Stormont Justice Committee on Thursday.

He told the committee there was a gap in the system introduced by the devolution of justice in April.

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.

Not appeal

Last month, Mr Larkin said he might not have all the powers he needed.

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

Mr Larkin told the committee that in contrast to the position before 11 April, he could not appeal unduly lenient sentences or initiate criminal proceedings.

"If something has gone wrong with a significant prosecution, or a significant piece of Public Prosecution Service policy, there is no mechanism for a parliamentary explanation of that, because the director can only be asked about administration and finance," Mr Larkin said.

"So 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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