Law Officers of the Crown

From Academic Kids

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 Lord Goldsmith QC. He is assisted by the Solicitor General for England and Wales, currently Harriet Harman QC MP. 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, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland 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.


The chief legal adviser in Scotland is the Lord Advocate. Under the recent constitutional reforms, the Lord Advocate has become an officer of the Scottish Executive, while the United Kingdom Government is advised on Scottish law by the Advocate General for Scotland.

The Lord Advocate is assisted by the Solicitor General for Scotland.

Northern Ireland

During the period of direct rule in Northern Ireland from 1973 to 1998, the English Attorney General was also Attorney General for Northern Ireland. Under the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland executive is now advised by an Advocate General 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 (although this is not relevant currently) 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.

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