Alexei Ghertescu is a Project Officer in the Justice and Human Rights Projects Implementation Unit at UNDP Moldova. He works on initiatives related to justice sector reform in Moldova. Before joining UNDP he worked as a practicing lawyer and is specifically interested in improving the functioning of the Moldovan judicial system. His other particular interests are legal education and professional trainings for legal professionals.
The level of public trust in Moldovan justice system remains low1 and this internal lack of confidence has the potential to undermine the justice process.2
There were many attempts to improve the situation. We at UNDP and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is responsible for the training of future judges and prosecutors, decided to approach this issue from another perspective and make sure that people who will be trained to become judges and prosecutors are persons with integrity and strong professional training.3 To do that we wanted to change the way candidates get admitted to the NIJ.
Until recently, the admission process at the NIJ consisted of two stages: a paper-based written test and an oral examination. But that system had a set of defects in it:
- Evaluation of candidates could be very subjective and allowed for possibilities of outside influence over the final results of the tests;
- The system was inefficient – written examination results were processed and made known within a week, keeping candidates in suspense and consuming significant resources of the Institute.
As a result, the level of qualification and integrity of the candidates admitted to NIJ training could be questioned.
To overcome these challenges, it was decided to test the e-admission system.
It first started in 2016 with an electronic test instead of the paper-based exam and then further developed in 2017. And now, the electronic test has several advantages:
- Completely excludes any possibility of outside involvement and increases trust into the testing process;
- Its results are generated and made known to the candidates immediately after its completion, thus eliminating any potential doubt as to impartiality of the examiners and ensuring that only persons with sufficient level of professional knowledge can go further;
- The new electronic test significantly reduced the workload of NIJ’s staff previously involved in all the paperwork and released their time for other tasks;
- The e-testing is friendlier for candidates with low vision – it is now possible to enlarge the text with the “zoom in” function as compared to the “unzoomable” text of the paper-based test.
The e-test consists of 400 multiple choice questions randomly chosen by computer out of the total stock of 1600 from various areas of law, including a set of questions on human rights included into the test upon our initiative. To ensure transparency and equal conditions for all candidates, all questions are made public in advance on Institute’s website.
The new system also improved the oral examination, as the questions that the candidates have to answer are now selected randomly by the computer.
In 2016 the NIJ also introduced the possibility of online submission of applications. After it had been successfully tested, starting with 2017 all applications can only be submitted online. In addition to that, the information about the results of the selection procedures is now published on the website of the Institute together with all decisions related to the admission process.
The e-admission module was developed with our support and was integrated into the e-learning platform used by the NIJ. All these new features of the admission process have led to a much greater transparency and merits based competition in the way how the candidates to study at the NIJ and potentially become future judges and prosecutors are selected.
But we did not stop there. In 2017 a psychological test was introduced. To exercise the profession of a judge or a prosecutor it is not enough to have necessary professional knowledge. They should be able to effectively communicate, maintain productive relations with other people, be able to control their emotions, work under pressure, etc. In order to assess whether the candidates have such qualities this test was introduced.
What stroke us with e-admission is that in 2017 we had more women admitted to the initial training programme for future judges than men (14 women vs 11 men; in 2016 the numbers were: 9 women vs 11 men). On the other hand, a number of women admitted to the training programme for the profession of prosecutor in 2016 and 2017 remains rather low (1 woman to each 4 men). So there remains an open question whether e-admission may contribute to gender balance in this profession.
It is expected that the NIJ will continue improving its admission system with the use of e-tools. Together with the new methods of training being implemented at the NIJ, it will ensure that judges and prosecutors are better equipped with practical skills to exercise their duties efficiently, and will also contribute to raising the level of transparency and integrity in the justice system.
If you are interested in the topic of judicial training in Moldova and want to know more about it, or you have any comments or suggestions about topics raised in this article, don’t hesitate to contact us. Let us know what you think!
1 In November 2017 only 13.5 % of respondents surveyed around the country said that they had some trust in the justice system. Source: Public Opinion Barometer, November 2017
2 Jane Louise Wood. Why public opinion of the criminal justice system is important. – January 2009.
3 The current system of appointment of candidates for the positions of judges and prosecutors is based on competitions announced by the Supreme Council of Magistracy and Supreme Council of Prosecutors. In order to be eligible to participate in the respetive competitions a candidate, in most of cases, should be a graduate of the National Institute of Justice and have successfully completed the initial training programme for one of the these two professions.