Joint Legal Services is a collaborative unit providing legal advice to South Wales Police and Gwent Police. By way of background, an in house legal department had existed in South Wales Police since 1986. Similar arrangements had developed in Gwent and in 2010 the two departments have been integrated to form the South Wales and Gwent Police Joint Legal Service.
The Service operates from offices at the two force headquarters in South Wales and Gwent.
Due to specialist legal demands, a Special Legal Casework function was then also established in South Wales in 2013 to deal with matters of high value and involving high impact on our communities.
The Joint Legal Service provides a wide-ranging service to both Chief Constables and Commissioners under these key workstream areas – Operational Policing, Litigation, Employment and Corporate (which includes contracts, commercial property and governance/vires issues).
If I worked in this department, what could my working day look like?
A day in the life of an Operational Policing solicitor is hard to put into words… as no two days are the same.
From dealing with proactive advice relating to legislation queries, to advising on live public events such as ongoing concerts and football matches a ‘normal day’ can be very varied.
We also advise upon and appear in court in relation to protective civil orders upon which we advise, draft and present the case before the relevant Magistrates or Crown Court(s).
We also deal with operational policing queries relating to major events within our force area – you may remember the NATO summit in the Celtic Manor (we advised on that) or the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff (we advised on that too!)
So you’ll see, no two days are the same in the “Ops world”. Working for the police within legal services will offer you a varied, fast paced and exciting case load within a compassionate, friendly and knowledgeable team.
The litigation team act in respect of any liability claims, as well as advising on issues such as data protection legislation and Force policies.
In order to advise our clients, we review a variety of documents, body worn video footage and CCTV and in this respect we work closely with other teams within both forces. We conduct research on legislation and case law to provide advice and in any cases where there may be lessons to be learned we flag these up as the focus of the force is on continuous improvement.
Members of our litigation team will be involved in interviewing police officers and staff in order to obtain their accounts and to draft witness statements.
On any given day we draft a variety of correspondence and documents such as letters of response, pleadings, witness statements, reports to clients, advising on Force policies and providing data for departmental reports and financial reserves.
We attend a variety of Court hearings and conduct our own advocacy where applicable.
We liaise with a wide range of parties from our professional clients, instructing Counsel and liaising with the Courts, engaging with Claimant solicitors, and conducting negotiation. We also liaise with members of the public as litigants in person.
A day in a life of solicitor within the employment team is hard to summarise. No two days are the same and we are fortunate enough to have a large variety of work that is both interesting and legally challenging.
Employment law is always interesting as it affects every working person each and every day of our working lives, from the contracts or the regulations that govern our day to day relationship with our employer, to the protections that employees benefit from such as the right not to be discriminated against. The laws that cover an employment relationship are vast and often complex.
The job of the employment solicitor is to assist our colleagues with interpreting and advising on many of these rules and regulations. This can cover a broad spectrum of topics such as grievances, disciplinaries, sickness absence, pension appeals, pay queries, consultancy agreements to name a few. We also deal with any Employment Tribunal claims that are brought by current or former officers and staff against the Force.
Police officers are not normal employees for the purposes of employment law and so are subject to their own rules and legislations. This is a niche area which lawyers outside of the Force often don’t get exposed to. It’s therefore a very interesting, unique and challenging part of the job!
You probably wouldn't automatically associate South Wales Police with commercial property, but it is an essential element of its operational effectiveness. Whether advising on the development of a new headquarters building, working with other Welsh police forces to develop a hub facility for joint operational training (to ensure cost effectiveness for the public purse), leasing sites used for say the storage of police vehicles as well as smaller community hubs for local policing to name a few we deal with it all.
We also deal with the sale of older police property allowing them to be repurposed or redeveloped so that the proceeds can be applied to acquire or develop more functional operational office buildings and facilities.
The working day is very flexible allowing me to work from home within the confines of providing a responsive, proactive, end user focused and commercially orientated first class service to my property colleagues. In the age of the digital economy and technological innovation is still rewarding to deal with assets that you can "bump into".
The Corporate team deal with anything and everything which affects any corporate or commercial dealings for the Force. One of its main functions is procurement and the buying of goods and services for the Force. This could be anything from stationary, uniform, IT and cleaning services. We even buy the horses. But there are also things you wouldn’t even imagine - one example is the agreement for the helicopter that you will sometimes see in the sky above our communities!
We also ensure that the governance of the force is consistent with legislation requirements and that we are acting within our powers. Other areas include advising on matters involving Intellectual Property and we do a lot of media and filming agreements.
We assist the Commissioner on legal issues in meeting his commitments in his Police and Crime Plan and so often draft agreements with other third-party organisations such as local authorities and the third sector. We have developed lots of inter party agreements to ensure people get the best service from us. We have also been involved in a number of contracts which direct assist victims and help reduce the chances of reoffending which is very rewarding to know you are helping to make a difference.
We also link with the work of the other teams e.g. the litigation team may have a claim which relates to one of our service contracts or we are buying kit for operational activities.
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