The Ministry of Justice is to close a commercial arm designed to assist international justice systems.

However, a controversial bid to help the prison service in Saudi Arabia will continue, justice minister Andrew Selous said yesterday.

Just Solutions international (JSi) is the commercial arm of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and specialises in criminal justice consultancy and the provision of offender management products and services to overseas governments.

‘Given our ambitious justice reform programme and the need to focus departmental resources on domestic priorities, the justice secretary has decided that JSi should cease to operate,’ Selous said in response to a written question from Nigel Huddleston, Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire.

‘NOMS will therefore not pursue any new projects with international partners through JSi.’ 

Selous said the ministry would work with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and other government departments ‘as required’ to promote the rule of law, good governance and judicial reform internationally.

But he said any support, in future, would be provided on a cost-recovery, rather than commercial, basis.

However, a bid to conduct a training-needs analysis for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia prison service staff, via ELM, an executive agency of the Saudi Ministry of Finance, will continue.

Selous said the project was ‘sufficiently far advanced that the government has decided withdrawing at this late stage would be detrimental to HMG’s wider interests’.

After submitting a final bid in April, Selous said NOMS would be liable for financial penalties should it withdraw ‘at this late stage’.

‘NOMS will therefore honour this outstanding bid and enter into a contract subject to the final decisions of ELM,’ he said. ‘All work relating to this project will be completed within six months of starting.’

The MoJ's commercial involvement with a similar agency in Saudi Arabia has attracted widespread criticism. Amnesty International reported last month that the country remains one of the most prolific executioners in the world.

Between January 1985 and June 2015, at least 2,200 people were executed, almost half foreign nationals, the report states.

More than one-third of the executions were carried out for offences ‘that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty can be imposed under international law.’

Amnesty UK director Kate Allen condemned British involvement in the penal system.

'Whilst it’s not entirely inconceivable that British expertise could actually help improve the dire situation many prisoners in countries like Saudi Arabia find themselves in, Britain’s involvement in those prison systems risks lending a British stamp of approval to human rights abuse in jails in Riyadh and elsewhere,’ Allen said.