Omani Mentorship Programme

30 April 2015

   Janet Weeks

 

Janet Weeks is a barrister practising at 5 Paper Buildings.  She specialises in fraud, money-laundering and corruption offences.

The shock and horror of entrusting a random selection of untrained members of the public to determine guilt or innocence was soon vindicated when the Omani prosecutors' view of the evidence was shared by the jury but not apparently other professionals involved in the case.

Mentoring senior lawyers from the Omani Public Prosecution (OPP) was as refreshing as the Omani lemon and mint juice we drank in Muscat on the continuation of the project. Having every element of our system closely analysed and cast over by a critical legal eye challenged and inspired me afresh as to the haphazard, albeit underfunded, brilliance of our criminal justice system.

At the end of their 1-2 week mentorship in the UK, the expense and delays of our system aside, the Omanis were impressed at the diligence of jurors, its incorruptible nature, and the fact that bringing the public face to face with the process also acts as a deterrent to ever finding oneself in the system at the wrong end.

Having volunteered to mentor, along with Ed Jenkins QC in Chambers and 3 other Chambers, the last thing I expected was an invitation to Oman in return.
In 21 years of practice, the extent of my professional foreign travel has been Swansea and Mold Crown Courts.

Muscat is a truly beautiful and remarkable city. The now firm friends we made in the London mentorship program were delighted to show us their offices, courts and city: far more pristine, spacious and well organised than our, rather typical, Chambers and somewhat dilapidated Crown Courts. Muscat in March was meteorologically fantastic: the poor Omanis had snow on their trip in February.

The two-day workshop on Corruption and Money-Laundering was well received. Each side presented two in-depth case analyses to show the detection, investigation, prosecution, sentence and confiscation regimes in practice.

It was a lot to cram in to each session and created lively debate.

Oman Programme


The OPP and AG's office are already lobbying their legislature to redraft their bribery laws to adopt some of the UK 2010 Bribery Act. They are also recommending the redrafting of guidance to financial institutions and allocating resources to better educate them on their money-laundering reporting requirements. There have been a number of recent high profile prosecutions for bribery offences in Oman and a determination to make Oman as uncorrupt a place to do business as possible and a country with a firm rule of law in order to attract businesses to transact with the Gulf states in Oman. The program has been enviously observed by other GCC countries and may well be extended in the region.

The Deputy Attorney General of Oman attended to open the session, along with the head of the British Council and UK Embassy staff. The AG was impressed with the program so far and was keen to extend it to other areas of concern to Oman.

I would thoroughly recommend volunteering with this scheme. It re-invigorated my enthusiasm for our system of justice, about which we all moan but rarely reflect on what a fantastically democratic, largely incorruptible and genuinely good system it is. Our judiciary is probably the most respected institution in UK civic life, and this is largely down to the system of justice over which they preside. The Bar enjoys an unrivalled reputation internationally, a fact I had long lost sight of in the daily grind of criminal practice.

It also provided a rare insight into a totally different criminal justice system, with Judges who have the status of high clerics and are as likely to be appointed for religious reasons as on their legal background. That aside, in terms of corruption and money-laundering we shared infinitely more than we differed.

The connections the Omani prosecutors made here in London will facilitate their own mutual assistance requests. Our experience and learning on detection, educating financial institutions and better legislative tools are already having an impact in Oman.

Oman shares a long and proud link with Britain (apparently one of our oldest allies). That link is certainly continuing with this excellent program.

Janet Weeks