Belfast Telegraph

Attorney General John Larkin: The legal eagle who never ducked controversy or bruising battles

By Adrian Rutherford

Attorney General John Larkin has only been in the post for three-and-a-half years, but he's been busy in that time.

His tenure has been marked by controversy, criticism and clashes – at one stage even drawing the attention of David Cameron.

Born in Belfast in 1963, Mr Larkin was educated at St Mary's Christian Brothers Grammar School and at Queen's University, Belfast.

During the early 1980s he was briefly involved with the Alliance Party, but gave up active involvement to concentrate on law.

He was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1986, and later to the Bar of Ireland.

Between 1989 and 1991 he was a professor of criminal law at Trinity College Dublin.

Mr Larkin returned to work at the Northern Ireland Bar in the 1990s, and was made a senior barrister in 2001.

He had some high-profile battles with politicians in the courts, including a bruising exchange with Ian Paisley jnr after the DUP MLA refused to reveal the name of a prison officer who told him thousands of files had been destroyed following LVF leader Billy Wright's murder.

Mr Larkin was appointed as Attorney General for Northern Ireland in May 2010 after the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Assembly.

His term has been marked by controversy, including a court case taken against former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain over comments in a book.

Mr Larkin used the archaic offence of "scandalising the court" to pursue Mr Hain over remarks made in his memoirs about a High Court judge.

The case was dropped but the matter reached the floor of the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Question Time, when both Mr Cameron and former Home Secretary David Blunkett sympathised with Mr Hain.

Mr Larkin was back in the headlines last September when Justice Minister David Ford branded an offer by the Attorney General to assist a justice committee investigation into the legal status of the Marie Stopes Clinic as "unhelpful".

Earlier this year he became involved in the gay adoption saga. Seeking to overturn a landmark ruling that banning adoption by same-sex couples is unlawful. Mr Larkin said the ban is in the child's best interests.

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