“Anyone who met me as a child would not have thought I would have become a judge, let alone a judicial lead with the title of President. I am from an ordinary family; my mum was a secretary and dad worked in a factory and worked his way up to be an engineer. I grew up in South Wales and no-one in my family had ever been to university.
With support from many people, I graduated in law but without any links to the legal profession. I decided becoming a solicitor was safer as I had no financial cushion to allow me to be a barrister and being a solicitor paid a salary. I specialised in insolvency and commercial litigation and became a Solicitor-Advocate (civil) after realising I was spending much of my time in court. I collected enough fee-paid judicial or quasi-judicial roles to enable me to leave practice.
I applied to be a legal member of the Adjudication Panel for Wales (APW). I was attracted to dealing with upholding standards in public life, something I had come to focus on as a judge. Shortly after being appointed as a legal member, the then President announced his retirement and invited legal members to apply. I was not at that time considering a judicial leadership role, feeling rather junior as a fee-paid judge and being under 40. I was encouraged by my lead in another tribunal who felt I had transferable skills to bring to the role.
The skills that secured the role were training/teaching experience, management skills from private practice, and substantial experience as a judge in a wide variety of civil tribunals. I have drawn extensively on these skills as President, including using the knowledge to train the members, changing and updating our practices and procedures, and dealing with the wholly unexpected.
What was new to me was the detailed regulations and law underpinning the APW specifically, but the skill developed in joining other tribunals enabled me to quickly pick it up and end up ‘writing the book’ on the subject. I have also led the development of the standards framework in Wales by ensuring that consistent and detailed Sanctions Guidance was put in place for both the APW and individual standards committees. Impactful stakeholder engagement has played a key part of my role, liaising closely with a range of groups involved in the administration of justice in Wales and directly with Ministers in the Welsh Government.
I have enjoyed my time as President of the APW greatly. It is a role that can fit in well for those holding other fee-paid judicial roles. It is rare for fee-paid judges to have such leadership responsibilities! The APW is not a dull place – there are moments of high drama combined with the pleasure of making a difference to public life in Wales. Our cases are cited across the nations of the UK as we are a leading Tribunal considering freedom of expression. It is a role that you can make your own; the APW is a collegiate environment where you can expect the full support of both members and the administration.”