The Good Friday Agreement (also known the Belfast Agreement) of 10 April 1998 established the current basis for Northern Ireland's devolved system of government within the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland Act 1998 made provision for the implementation of that agreement.
Following an historical vote by the Northern Ireland Assembly in March 2010, responsibility for justice and policing in Northern Ireland was transferred to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive in April 2010.
At this moment, the sections of the Department of Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2010 establishing the position of a Minister of Justice and a Department of Justice came into force.
The Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 was also enacted and established a new post of Attorney General for Northern Ireland, who is the chief legal adviser to the Northern Ireland Executive.
That Act also created the office of Advocate General for Northern Ireland, to be held by the Attorney General of England and Wales. The Advocate General for Northern Ireland is the chief legal adviser to the UK Government on Northern Ireland law, and has reduced responsibilities in Northern Ireland.
The Queen’s role in judicial matters includes the appointments of:
- The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, a position created in 1922. The Lord Chief Justice holds the office of President of the Courts of Northern Ireland and is also Head of the Judiciary of Northern Ireland. The appointment is made on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
- The twelve other Commissioners of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission, who are in turn responsible for appointing members of the judiciary in Northern Ireland. The appointment is made on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor.
- Judges of the High Court of Northern Ireland, upon recommendation by the Lord Chancellor of persons selected and recommended by the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission.
- Lords Justice of Appeal, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
- The Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman, on recommendation from the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland.