"The Constitutional Position of Law Officers in the UK"
My PhD research is about the position of law officers in the UK constitution. Modern law officers carry different titles, namely the Attorneys General (for England and Wales, and Northern Ireland); the Solicitors General (for England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland); the Advocates General (for Northern Ireland and Scotland); the Counsel General (for Wales), and the Lord Advocate (for Scotland). Moreover, each law officer in the UK exercises considerable influence on both the political policies and legal norms in their jurisdiction to varying degrees. Their authority is recognised and privileged, in particular contexts, by legislature, executive and judiciary alike. That authority is expressed through a range of disparate functions based in statute, common law and convention, which have often been the object of critical public debate but scarcely the subject of sustained academic research. Criticisms subsist in both legal and political characterisations of the role, whether as a tension between the function of a government legal agent and that of an independent custodian of fundamental laws, or as a tension between the function of a politically partisan advisor and that of an independent official guided by the public interest as a matter of principle. It is sometimes unclear which interests law officers purport to advance in the discharge of their functions, which tends to controversialise their role in UK constitutionalism. That is, their role in influencing or constraining government action. My research project explores the considerable complexity underpinning appraisals of the law officers and seeks to disaggregate the binary view of relevant interests implicit in them. Government interests can and do overlap with public interests, and vice versa, but both governments and publics are monolithic concepts which have a tendency to over-simplify constitutional discourse in this area.
I am a proud graduate of Queen’s University Belfast (LLB, 1st Class Hons, 2013) and Ulster University (LLM, Distinction, 2014). Alongside my PhD research, I enjoy teaching undergraduates about criminal, constitutional and administrative law; organising and participating at academic seminars and conferences, especially in my role as Postgraduate Coordinator for the Human Rights Centre at Queen’s, and writing for publication about public law generally.