The MoJ and the Saudis

Over at the Financial Times website I have a post on the Ministry of Justice’s proposed deal with the punishment system in Saudi Arabia.  Please go and read it – access is free (for a number of pieces a month) though registration is required.

The piece was prompted by the revelation of the deal by David Hencke late last week.  The government report which mentions the deal is here and it is described on page 6 as:

“Just Solutions international (JSi), is the commercial brand for the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) promoting products and services to international justice markets.

“In August 2014, JSi submitted a £5.9m proposal to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Finance to conduct a training needs analysis across all the learning and development programmes within the Saudi Arabian Prison Service.”

As I set out in the FT post, there is a lot worrying about this deal.

The “JSi” does not exist separately to the MoJ: it is just a gimmicky label some civil servants have given themselves whilst they affect to be international service providers.  It is, in reality, the MoJ providing the service on “commercial” terms, diverting scarce UK civil service resources to Saudi Arabia.

But even more problematic is the secrecy: the details of the proposed deal will not be provided until after the deal has been signed, and so we have no idea how robust JSi can be in challenging any abuses which it encounters.

In essence it smacks of a bright idea to raise cash without thinking through whether such an engagement is a helpful thing for a hard-pressed MoJ, or whether it will do any good to one of the most brutal punishment systems in the world.

At worst, it provides a veneer of legitimacy to a dreadful regime whilst showing the UK government’s priority is to simply make money out of the punishment system of Saudi Arabia.

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