The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is a ministerial department which supports the Attorney General and the Solicitor General (the Law Officers). The Law Officers are government ministers who:
- provide legal advice to government
- superintend, or oversee, the main independent prosecuting departments - the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office
- superintend, or oversee, Her Majesty’s CPS Inspectorate, which inspects how cases are prosecuted
- superintend, or oversee, the Government Legal Department, which provides legal services to government
- answer questions about their work in Parliament
- perform other functions in the public interest, such as looking at sentences which may be too low - these duties are independent of government
Neither we nor the Law Officers can provide legal advice to members of the public or business.
Consider unduly lenient (low) sentences
If a sentence given in a Crown Court appears to be very low, or unduly lenient, anyone can ask the Attorney General to examine the sentence, within 28 days of sentencing.
The Attorney or Solicitor General may then ask the Court of Appeal to look at the sentence. The Court may decide to keep the sentence the same, increase it, or issue guidance for future cases.
You can also follow the progress of referrals made to the Attorney General’s Office.
Examine cases of contempt of court
Contempt of court is where inappropriate reporting risks making a trial unfair or where someone does not respect a court or disrupts its work by words or actions.
The Attorney General can take legal action in the public interest if certain types of contempt of court have been committed.
Deal with vexatious litigants
People who keep bringing unnecessary court cases can be classed as vexatious litigants. The Attorney General can apply to the High Court to designate someone as a vexatious litigant by getting a court order to prevent them from issuing proceedings without agreement from the court.
An inquest is a limited, fact-finding inquiry into an unexpected death. It is intended to establish who has died, and how, when and where the death occurred.
If somebody connected to the dead person thinks the inquest did not come to the correct conclusion, for example if new evidence emerges, they can ask the Attorney to consider asking the High Court to look at the evidence again. He will do this if he thinks a new inquest is necessary. He cannot order a new inquest himself.
The Attorney does this as part of his public interest role, independently of government and strictly on the basis of the evidence.
The Attorney can help the courts when considering cases involving charities. He can also ask the Charity Tribunal to clarify any matter of charity law.
Consents to prosecute
A few serious offences need the consent of the Attorney General before somebody can be charged. Prosecutors must first decide whether there is enough evidence for a charge.
The Attorney General is not involved in the vast majority of individual cases in England and Wales.
Legal guidance on consents to prosecute
Appointing specialist lawyers to act for the government
The Law Officers approve the appointment of highly qualified lawyers – counsel – who carry out government work and belong to groups, called panels, according to the type of work they do. This is done with the assistance of the Government Legal Department.
Further information on the panels
How to nominate a lawyer to join the panels
Who we work with
The departments superintended by the Law Officers are the:
- Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
- Serious Fraud Office (SFO)
- Government Legal Department (GLD)
- Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI)
- Government Legal Service (GLS)
Protocol between the Attorney General and prosecuting departments
We also work with the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office to develop criminal justice policy and promote efficiency and effectiveness.
Working at the AGO
All of our jobs are advertised on the Civil Service Jobs website