Tuesday 13 October 2015

A shabby episode comes to an end

Just Solutions International:

The Ministry of Justice is bringing to an end Just Solutions International (JSi).  The Guardian 10th September reported - " ... The commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice – which has been criticised for selling British prison expertise to regimes with appalling human rights records, including Saudi Arabia and China – is to be closed down.  Michael Gove, the justice secretary, has ordered the closure of Just Solutions International, telling MPs it was because “of the need to focus departmental resources on domestic priorities.  JSI was set up ..... as the trading arm of the national offender management service (Noms) to sell its expertise in prisons and probation – including in offender management, payment by results, tagging and privatisation – around the world."

The Saudi Prison Proposal:

The Guardian (25th January 2015) also reported on a proposal put to Saudi Arabia "to conduct a training needs analysis across all the learning and development programmes within the Saudi Arabian prison service”.   Please see previous post of 28th January 2015 - "A Shabby Deal!"  Since then, the Jack of Kent blog has followed this matter assiduously - see his post of 13th October. The prison proposal has been cancelled.  The Guardian 13th October said:

"Downing Street has announced that the government is to cancel a £5.9m contract to provide a training programme for prisons in Saudi Arabia.  In a significant victory for the justice secretary, Michael Gove – whose attempts to cancel the project had been resisted by David Cameron and the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond – the prime minister’s spokeswoman said the contract has been cancelled following a review.  The spokeswoman said: “This bid to provide the additional training to Saudi Arabia has been reviewed and the government has decided that it won’t be proceeding with the bid. The review has been ongoing following the decision that was announced earlier in September to close down the Just Solutions International branch of the Ministry of Justice that was providing some of these services.”

Although the word contract is used by The Guardian, it is clear from Mr Gove's response to the Urgent Question that a final bid for this work was submitted in April 2015 and, since then, discussions had continued.  Following a "review" the government decided to withdraw the bid so that they could focus resources on domestic priorities.  Thus, as a matter of law there was never a contract.

A Memorandum of Understanding:

In a 2014 Mid-Year Report to Parliament, the Ministry of Justice said that:

"The Secretary of State visited Riyadh in September 2014 to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Judicial Cooperation, to build upon the existing bilateral justice relationship, promote UK legal services in Saudi Arabia and raise awareness of the upcoming Global Law Summit. He also met UK lawyers with offices in Riyadh. Discussions were also held on judicial cooperation, King Abdullah’s reform programme, and human rights issues."  The report offered no further detail.

The present status of this Memorandum of Understanding seems to be unclear as lawyer and journalist David Allen Green makes clear in his article in the Financial Times 12th October.  This is an article asking deep and worrying questions about the UK government's relationship with Saudi Arabia.  For example, it is a fact that Saudi Arabia effectively prevented a prosecution in what has become known as The Corner House case [2008] UKHL 60.  Green asked: "To what extent does the influence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reach into the domestic government of the United Kingdom? And what does the UK get in return?"

Whatever the answers to those questions - and I would respectfully suggest that Parliament should find out - we can at least say that Just Solutions is to be no more and the proposed shabby prison deal is at an end.

Great credit must go to David Allen Green for his determined exposure of this shady and secretive business.


The Financial Times reporting that Lord Falconer (a former Lord Chancellor) has asked the National Audit Office to examine the proposed Saudi prison deal.  

The Guardian 13th October - UK Saudi Arabia relationship under growing strain


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