The attorney general has defended her dual responsibilities as a politician and the government's chief law officer as she was questioned about her role by MPs.

Appearing before the House of Commons justice select committee yesterday, Suella Braverman QC MP said the tagline at the Attorney General's Office is ‘making law and politics work together’.

She said there were clear areas where she is acting as the guardian of the public interest, considering matters wholly from a legal perspective, and 'switching off' her political antennae. 'There are other occasions where I do bring the political side to the role more to the fore. That is, when I'm answering for the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] at the dispatch box.'

Committee chair Bob Neill MP put to Braverman whether as practising lawyers advising a company, they would have expected to be involved in board decisions or would they have expected to give advice then step away.

Braverman replied: 'You've got lots of different models. You will have general counsel who will have a senior position in an organisation but also be part of that organisation. You will also have instances where you go out for an independent opinion in the traditional model of going out to counsel.

Suella Braverman

Braverman says she is unaware of concerns among lawyers about her role

Source: Richard Gardner/Shutterstock

‘The way I see it is, I am a member of the cabinet, I subscribe to collective responsibility. I am an elected politician. For me, the political thread that runs through this role is vitally important. The alternative of course is that the attorney would be an unelected apolitical official. We already have many of those working for the government. I think there's a virtue to someone who is politically there.'

Braverman is the first attorney general to have a special adviser.

She said: 'The virtue of having a political adviser is someone who can assist with the more political angles of the work. I can't go into the subject matters I advise on but some of them have huge political implications. I'm involved with some of the big issues that the government is grappling with. They are inherently political. Having an adviser who can bring that political dimension is very helpful.'

Labour’s Diane Abbott MP said practitioners within the criminal justice system were increasingly concerned about what they saw as a 'politicisation' of the AG’s role under Braverman. The attorney general said she was not aware of the concerns.

Asked about the Colston Four case, Braverman said: ‘I don’t think anything I’ve said has sought to undermine trial by jury. I make it very clear it’s an important foundation of our legal system. However, I do have a statutory power where I can if I seek to do so refer a point of law which has arisen in a case to the Court of Appeal to ask for their opinion on it. My mere consideration of this matter [doesn’t] suggest anything unduly political or improper.’


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