New NI Attorney General Appointed, Queries Missing Powers

Nominated as the new Northern Ireland Attorney General in November 2008, John Larkin was finally appointed today.  UTV has his initial “grateful” comments.  But the BBC notes that he’s already noticed that something’s missing…

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.”

Were those powers devolved?

Adds I don’t see them listed as an exception… But if they were devolved, who’s got them?

Update From the UK Attorney General’s Office website

From 12 April 2010 the Attorney General also no longer oversees the functions of the DPP for Northern Ireland.

So, who does?

Further  Elsewhere, the “Attorney General has power to ask the Court of Appeal to review some sentences which she thinks are unduly lenient. If the Court of Appeal agrees with the Attorney General it can increase the sentence.”

Is it the case that the UK Attorney General – as the Advocate General for NI – still has that power?

Or has it been devolved to someone else?

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  • Framer

    It is not as if Larkin’s predecessor was able to effect anything useful despite having powers of supervision over the Public Prosecution Service.

    They will only prosecute when near certain of a conviction while the staff numbers grow exponentially.

  • Pete Baker

    Framer

    The question is where those powers now lie.

    Is it with a politician rather than someone who should be independent of political interference?

  • Alias

    Perhaps they went to the Advocate General for Northern Ireland, who is also Her Majesty’s Attorney General for England and Wales?

  • Pete Baker

    Possibly, Alias.

    But it seems unlikely.

  • joeCanuck

    C’mon! Don’t be surprised. Probably just a cock-up by the brilliant minds and their equally brilliant CSs who rule us.
    Larkin should give them an ultimatum – fix the cock-up or I’m outta here.

  • Alias

    Well, if they’re not with the Advocate General for NI then who is superintending these services? It can’t be the political class since they are not qualified for the role of supervision and there are rather obvious issues about political interference involved which would seem to rule such blatant shenanigans out (not that I would put it past the state to degrade justice in this way in order to serve an ulterior purpose).

    The AGO did say that they now have “significantly reduced responsibilities in Northern Ireland” so it seems likely that these powers now reside with the Advocate General. Part 2, 28 (2) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 says that the “Secretary of State may by order make amendments in any enactment or instrument (whenever passed or made) for, or in connection with, the transfer to the Advocate General for Northern Ireland of a function of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland of giving consent to the institution or conduct of criminal proceedings (whether or not as an alternative to the consent of any other person).”

    It’s a shame that Mr Larkin wasn’t know specific.

  • Time to grow up, gents, and take a leap into the real world of puppets on a string rather than wasting your time waffling about things which you do not control.

    And it will be interesting to see/hear if the Mr Larkin is a puppet who also doesn’t know how things can work and how to change them for the better too, contenting himself with just doing as he’s told rather than do as he should. Surely the Northern Ireland stage is full enough with big girls’ blouses and right jessies without the resurrection of old offices to launch even more into the media spotlight.

    And before you dare reply to any of the the above, with any sort of a comment, please enjoy the following edutainment …… http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1179175516550155628#

  • Cynic

    They are independent. To stop political interference in their decisions.

  • Framer

    CONCORDAT BETWEEN HER MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT AND THE NORTHERN IRELAND EXECUTIVE ON THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE PUBLIC PROSECUTION SERVICE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

    Purpose

    1. This concordat sets out arrangements – agreed between Her Majesty’s Government and the Northern Ireland Executive – for safeguarding the independence of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland following the devolution of responsibility for criminal justice matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive.

    Independence of the Public Prosecution Service

    3. Her Majesty’s Government and the Northern Ireland Executive agree that safeguarding the independence of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland is essential in a democratic society which supports the rule of law. Public confidence requires that decisions on whether to prosecute or not are taken in a fair and impartial manner. This can only be safeguarded if the independence of the prosecuting authority is maintained and protected.

    4. In order to safeguard the independence of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland the following principles and arrangements have been agreed between Her Majesty’s Government and the Northern Ireland Executive:

    • In accordance with section 42(1) of the 2002 Act, the functions of the Director will be exercised by him independently of any other person. The Director is the head of the Public Prosecution Service, and the Deputy Director, the Public Prosecutors and other members of staff of the Service are subject to his direction as provided by section 29(6) of the 2002 Act. The Director of Public Prosecutions will have operational responsibility and accountability for the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland.

    • The Director and Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions will be appointed by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland in accordance with section 30 of the 2002 Act. The relationship between the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General for Northern Ireland will be consultative only, as set out in section 42(2)-(3) of the 2002 Act. The Attorney General will have no power of direction or superintendence over the Public Prosecution Service, whether in individual cases or matters of policy. The institution or continuance of criminal proceedings shall not be subject to the consent or fiat of the Attorney General. It is an essential and fundamental principle that the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland is independent in the discharge of its functions…

  • Pete Baker

    Framer

    That doesn’t address the point raised.

    Elsewhere, the “Attorney General has power to ask the Court of Appeal to review some sentences which she thinks are unduly lenient. If the Court of Appeal agrees with the Attorney General it can increase the sentence.”

    Is it the case that, as Alias suggests, the UK Attorney General – as the Advocate General for NI – still has that power?

    Or has it been devolved to someone else?

  • Who is the Director of the Public Prosecution Service [NI]? …. “At present the PPS Board of Management, consisting of the Deputy Director (as Chair), Senior Assistant Director (SCS Grade 3) and all Assistant Directors acts as the main decision-making body for strategic and management decisions. In keeping with his statutory responsibilities, final authority for all decisions remains with the Director.” …. http://www.ppsni.gov.uk/default.aspx?CATID=88

    And that’s quite a gravy train of pen pushers.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes; that’s exactly what happened to the horrible brute who murdered my Sister-In -Law in his previous case before murdering her. It was a very similar case with a fairly lenient sentence and the AG appealed and had the sentence increased. It wasn’t long enough to save my Sister-in-law unfortunately. He murdered her a few short months after being released under the 50% remission rule then in effect.

  • madraj55

    amanfromMars I notice that Ian Paisley’s threat to the new AG is shown up as hollow as his principles. Perhaps this will teach IPJ not to make veiled threats in future that he can’t execute. The PPS is clearly broken as two seperate cases within as many days showed. It needs to be brought into the AG’s remit.

  • A reference to read of such grandstanding would be helpful and much appreciated, madraj55.

    And Junior, for all that he may know, still has a lot to learn, and some things which he should know, he will never learn for he will never lead with veiled threats whenever decisive proaction which others and media must follow, rules, and never more so than in the politics sideshow of life.

  • Pete Baker

    I’ve added the following to the original post to clarify the outstanding question.

    Further Elsewhere, the “Attorney General has power to ask the Court of Appeal to review some sentences which she thinks are unduly lenient. If the Court of Appeal agrees with the Attorney General it can increase the sentence.”

    Is it the case that the UK Attorney General – as the Advocate General for NI – still has that power?

    Or has it been devolved to someone else?

  • Alias

    It seems that the AG in NI will not provide supervision of the prosecution service, unlike the AG in England and Wales. He will, however, unlike the AG in England and Wales, appoint the director of the prosecution service but will not monitor how his appointee performs his functions. That safeguard against misconduct that is present in England and Wales is missing from NI, so the prosecution service in NI is more vulnerable to political or other interference than it is in England and Wales with no supervision by NI’s highest law officer in place to ensure that it performs its functions in full accordance with the law and that it does so free from interference.

  • Alias

    Typo: “He will, however, like the AG in England and Wales, appoint the director of the prosecution service but will not monitor how his appointee performs his functions.”

  • Alias

    That is deliberately obfuscating supervision with interference. Supervision by the Attorney General ensures that the functions of the prosecution service are free from political or other interference. Without supervision, interference is more likely to occur and to go undetected, not less likely, so that is simply disingenuous NIO spin.

    Why is it deemed an “an essential and fundamental principle” that the prosecution service in NI is not to be supervised by its highest law officer but it is deemed to be “an essential and fundamental principle” that it should be supervised in England and Wales?

    Which of the two regions of the UK has the lower standard?

  • Alias

    Err, that reply is to Framer.