Law Officers of the Crown

The Law Officers of the Crown are the chief legal advisors to the Crown, and advise and represent the various governments in the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth Realms. In England and Wales, and most Commonwealth and colonial governments, the Law Officer of the Crown is the Attorney General. In Scotland, the Law Officer is the Lord Advocate, but a new position of Advocate General for Scotland was created following devolution to the Scottish Parliament.

England and Wales

The Attorney General for England and Wales is the chief legal adviser of the Crown in England and Wales and a member of the Government. The Attorney General, with the assistance of the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers provides legal advice to the Government of the day. By convention, this legal advice is available to subsequent governments, unlike the papers of other ministers.

The current Attorney General is Baroness Scotland PC, QC. She is assisted by the Solicitor General for England and Wales, currently Vera Baird MP QC. Under the Law Officers Act 1997, the Solicitor General may do anything on behalf of, or in the place of, the Attorney General and vice versa.

The Attorney General has responsibility for the Treasury Solicitor's Department (and the Treasury Solicitor acts on behalf of the Attorney General when representation in court is required). He has supervisory powers over prosecutions, including the Crown Prosecution Service (headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions), the Serious Fraud Office and the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office.

The Attorney General has public interest functions: for example, he is the trustee of default where a sole trustee has died, and can also take cases to the Law Lords where points of general legal importance need to be settled.

Under the Government of Wales Act 2006, the Counsel General for Wales is the chief legal adviser to the Welsh Assembly Government.


The chief legal adviser in Scotland is the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini.

The Lord Advocate heads up the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and is the chief public prosecutor in Scotland.

Under the recent constitutional reforms, the Lord Advocate has become a member of the Scottish Executive, while the United Kingdom Government is advised on Scots law by the newly created post of Advocate General for Scotland.

The Lord Advocate is assisted by the Solicitor General for Scotland, Frank Mulholland

Northern Ireland

In 1973 the functions of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland were conferred on the Attorney General for England and Wales as part of Direct Rule. When policing and justice is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, these functions will be split between a new local Attorney General for Northern Ireland and an Advocate General for Northern Ireland. Some other current functions of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland will be conferred on the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland.


Most Commonwealth and colonial governments also have their own Attorneys General. Sometimes the legal advisors of sub-national governments are given the title Advocate General.

Other persons

Other persons are entitled to have an attorney general, including a Queen consort and the Prince of Wales, who has an Attorney General for the Duchy of Cornwall. There is also an attorney general for the Duchy of Lancaster which is owned by the monarch.

Defunct offices

Before the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the legal advisors to the Crown in the Courts of Ireland were the Attorney-General for Ireland and the Solicitor-General for Ireland. These offices were vacant from 1921.

The Crown also had a legal advisor for the High Court of Admiralty. This officer was called the Admiralty Advocate, and the appointment lapsed in 1875 when the Admiralty Court became part of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice.

The Crown's representative in the ecclesiastical courts was the King's Advocate (called Queen's Advocate when the monarch was female). The office has been vacant since the resignation of its last holder in 1872 [Haydn's "Book of Dignities", 1894] .

ee also

* United Kingdom budget


External links

* [ Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers]

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