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Justice Systems: Developing Countries

Volume 580: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2014

3. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to assist development of justice systems in developing countries. (904020)

The Crown Prosecution Service works closely with the United Kingdom and international partners to deliver targeted justice assistance in developing countries of priority to UK national security. It does this on a range of important threats and topics, such as counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, asset recovery and cyber-crime.

I welcome that answer. What specifically is the CPS doing in countries that are experiencing high levels of conflict, particularly Afghanistan?

The CPS has until reasonably recently had an important programme in Afghanistan, although it is currently at an end. The programme enabled prosecutors to work with local counterparts to deal with narcotics and corruption investigations and prosecutions, one of which was the massive Kabul bank fraud, which saw two former bank chiefs convicted and jailed in March 2013. I visited that project when I was in Kabul.

In addition, there are projects in Nigeria, to which my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has referred and which have been complimented by the Chief Justice of Nigeria for speeding up the criminal process. There has also been a major project in the Indian ocean area that has led to 110 pirate cases being prosecuted by CPS prosecutors.

Some crimes committed by British companies or British citizens can be tried in this country or in a foreign country if they are transnational financial crimes committed in a foreign country. What is the Crown Prosecution Service doing to equip developing countries with investigative mechanisms to ensure that more of those cases are tried in the countries in which the offences are committed?

It is important to understand that the Crown Prosecution Service has limited capacity, but it has prioritised for co-operation a series of overseas aid projects in a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, the ones I have just given, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. In addition, it is worth bearing in mind that the United Kingdom Government use the assistance of non-governmental organisations, such as the Slynn Foundation and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, to provide capacity building as well. Simply to give an example, I have seen projects in the west bank being brought forward with the help of those organisations, so not just the Crown Prosecution Service can help in this area.

Corruption and bribery are major factors undermining the rule of law in many developing countries. However, the serious fraud squad has yet to land a secure conviction under the Bribery Act 2010. What steps has the Attorney-General taken to ensure that the agency has the resources it needs to investigate these important cases?

The director of the Serious Fraud Office is quite clear that, for him, bribery is a priority area. I am fairly confident, from the cases currently being investigated and looked at, that we will see such prosecutions brought successfully. In so far as resources are concerned, if there was any case in which he had difficulty in respect of resources and felt that he was not able to take it forward, he would certainly come to speak to me about it.