South Wales and Gwent Police legal director Gareth Madge is leading the way in streamlining legal services in the public sector.
As one of the first lawyers to work in-house for a UK police force, director of legal services at South Wales Police and Gwent Police Gareth Madge concedes that he could be seen as something of a role model for his peers across the country.
But with the legal services departments of the South Wales and Gwent forces having merged a little under a year ago, Madge could now be the poster boy for a more modern phenomenon: the need for public authorities to streamline their legal offerings.
Madge, who heads a combined team of 10 lawyers, is realistic about the challenges faced by people in his position.
“One of the really big challenges for us is the financial situation,” he says. “We need to deliver as effective a police service as we can, but we also need to concentrate on the big picture.”
In terms of that picture, other forces could soon be following Madge’s lead.
“Because we were the first to enter into this arrangement we’re getting asked about it a lot,” he reveals. “It’s worked well for us. It’s increased our capacity and we’ve got a more resilient arrangement between the forces.”
It is no coincidence that Madge’s talk of increased capacity and efficiency sounds rather like the preaching of a general counsel at a major corporate. He admits that, after a quarter of a century in the job, that is precisely how he now sees his role.
“I’ve had the view for some time that lawyers in the police service should fulfil a role at the corporate level,” Madge opines, warming to his theme. “It’s not a million miles away from the kind of role they’d undertake in commerce.”
Madge quite possibly has more to say on the use of lawyers in police forces than anyone else. He was a member of the Association of Police Lawyers from when it was set up in 1995 right through to 2009, including six of those years as secretary and four as chair.
Now he sits on the force’s chief officer group as the only civilian on the panel that controls strategic management for South Wales policing.
His wide-ranging remit in terms of strategic advice sees Madge involved in employment, regulatory and operational issues. But his most testing times have come when faced with miscarriage of justice disputes.
“Those have been the most challenging matters to deal with,” he admits. “In a sense, you have to distance yourself and wear two hats at the same time; you have to be part of the force and yet stand apart from it.”
Madge obviously feels a strong connection with his uniformed colleagues.
“I’m a frustrated policeman,” he jokes, before revealing that his uncle was an officer. But at the same time he believes that having a civilian voice is increasingly important for modern police forces.
Recent years have seen the legal department he runs become increasingly influential concerning how the force operates on a day-to-day basis. There is now a representative from the department sitting alongside officers in command rooms who oversee major events, such as the controversial march by the Welsh Defence League in Swansea in 2009, when the far-right group clashed with anti-fascist protestors.
Madge joined South Wales Police in 1986 after nine years at Swansea firm TR Harris Arnold & Co. He says he has no regrets about going in-house.
“In private practice, naturally the drivers are the interests of the clients and the delivery of a profitable business. Here the challenges are far more wide-ranging,” he explains. “You have to be aware of what’s happening at government level.”
Keeping on top of legal issues affecting policing, managing budgets and having a say in the strategic direction of the force should keep him busy enough, but Madge has a few other balls to keep in the air.
He leads on legal issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Cymru and is a member of the All-Wales Police Collaboration Board. In addition, he is co-chair of the South Wales force’s leadership committee and, as a Welsh speaker, is chief officer in relation to Welsh language issues.
“It matters that there’s a civilian police staff element in terms of leadership,” he says of his work in these areas. “Those skills are important for lawyers. Police officers get good training [in leadership], but police civilian staff often get a lot less.”
With so many functions to fulfil it would be no surprise if Madge wanted to siphon off some of his responsibilities. But he shows no sign of slowing down yet, even if he sometimes needs to remind himself where to be.
“I had a day last week when my diary and I were going in opposite directions,” he jokes in his broad South Wales accent.
His diary might not know where he is going, but in terms of police lawyers, Madge still leads the way.
Name: Gareth Madge
Organisations: South Wales Police and Gwent Police
Title: Director of Joint Legal Services
Industry: Police Service
Reporting to: Chief Constable South Wales Peter Vaughan and Chief Constable Designate in Gwent Carmel Napier
Employees:Approximately 5,200 in South Wales and 2,500 in Gwent
Legal capability:24 (including administration staff)
Annual legal spend:Up to £100,000