State-guaranteed legal aid may now be accessed instantly, just in few clicks. As of June 2020, the appointment of an ex officio lawyer may be requested online, by filling in a form and signing it electronically. The new procedure saves time and effort and removes hard copies from the workflow. The system launched amid COVID-19 pandemic, releases applicants from extra travels and therefore reduces the exposure.

The e-tool is supporting the work of police officers, criminal investigation officers, prosecutors and judges, as well as people eligible for the services of a state-paid lawyer. The system was developed by the National Legal Aid Council (NLAC), with the support of UNDP and Sweden. 

So, applications for an ex-officio lawyer are reviewed twice as quickly.

Now, an applicant for state-guaranteed legal aid should just fill out an application under the "Forms" section on www.cnajgs.md. In just a few minutes, the form is being examined by an operator of the National Legal Aid Council. Shortly thereafter, the applicant is informed, by email, which lawyer has been appointed to take over the case.

Before, this form had to be filled out on paper, sometimes handwritten, scanned, signed, and only then submitted to NLAC. Applicants had to wait longer until an ex officio lawyer was appointed to them.

Sergiu Chiruta, coordinator of the Chisinau Territorial Office of NLAC, notes that the new system has cut by half the time allocated by NLAC consultants for reviewing applications.

Sergiu Chiruţa, coordinator of the Chisinau Territorial Office of NLAC, notes that the new system has cut by half the time allocated by NLAC consultants for reviewing applications: "When the request comes through the online application, the draft decision is already pre-filled with the data entered by the applicant or beneficiary. The consultant no longer allocates 10 minutes, but only 3-4 minutes to check if the entered data is correct. The lawyer is appointed, as soon as possible. Both the defence lawyer and the applicant are informed about the designation decision, through the e-tool.”

The e-system fully supports the interest of final beneficiaries - people who need free legal aid, thinks Chiruta: "The automation of these processes allows state-guaranteed legal aid providers to give more time to prepare the cases and to ensure that our beneficiaries enjoy high quality services". 

The e-system contributes to the delivery of justice

Nestor-Artur Taslic, senior criminal investigation officer within the Criminal Investigation Directorate of the General Police Inspectorate, is one of the frequent users of the new functionalities introduced by the state-guaranteed legal aid information system.

Nestor-Artur Tașlîc, senior criminal investigation officer within the Criminal Investigation Directorate of the General Police Inspectorate, is one of the frequent users of the new functionalities introduced by the state-guaranteed legal aid information system. The officer requests a free defence lawyer in various cases, for example, when the person to be recognized as a suspect is not able to afford a defence lawyer: "With the introduction of the possibility to request state guaranteed legal aid by electronic signature, the procedure has become much easier. If making an approximate estimation, previously, it lasted from one to two hours. For example, if the procedure happened during peak hours, or there were a lot of requests, this would complicate our work. Recently, it took me no more than 30 minutes to file an e-request.”

Andrei Ojoga from Chisinau District Court, Centre Office, mentions saving time and respecting the rights of litigants, when referring to the new changes in the state-guaranteed legal aid provision system.

Judges take note as well of the advantages of the new e-system. "Chisinau Territorial Office of NLAC offers immediately information by e-mail about the designated lawyer, his/her e-mail, and the decision issued in this regard, which allows us to send by e-mail useful information to that lawyer for the participation in the court hearing. The benefit for the citizen in whose interest a lawyer has been or will be appointed, is the legal aid they will ultimately benefit from. We save precious time by using this electronic platform," notes Andrei Ojoga from Chisinau District Court, Centre Office.  

Alexandru Negru, judge at Chisinau District Court, Buiucani Office, mentions that the new functionalities benefit the litigants.

This opinion is also shared by Alexandru Negru, judge at Chisinau District Court, Buiucani Office: “The litigant is the beneficiary of the public services that judicial bodies provide and I believe that the litigant is the most interested in obtaining such a service as fast as possible. If speaking about shortening the timeframe for settling a case in which a person participates as a defendant or an injured party, then obviously we end up providing the service faster and, why not, more efficiently.”

The new system has already proven its effectiveness, being widely used by the justice system’s staff. Between June and December 2020, NLAC received 29,925 requests for state-guaranteed legal aid. Out of them, 24,577 were submitted online, using the electronic signature, which means 82% of the total number.

Most of the requests - 9019 - came from district courts, other 6250 came from the General Police Inspectorate, and 2503 requests - from the Courts of Appeal.

In the Republic of Moldova, state-guaranteed legal aid is provided annually to over 60,000 women and men. Persons  who are part of criminal, civil, administrative, or judicial review proceedings, but who do not have sufficient means to pay for such a service, or who have been detained as part of a criminal trial or administrative proceedings may benefit from the services of a lawyer paid by the state. State-guaranteed legal aid is also provided to children who are victims of crime, but also to adult victims of domestic violence or sexual offenses. Free legal aid (primary or qualified) may be obtained by contacting a paralegal in the area where the person lives or by requesting aid from one of the four Territorial Offices of the National Legal aid Council. As from June, this type of assistance can also be requested online, using the electronic signature (details on www.cnajgs.md).

Increasing access to justice for people from vulnerable groups - such as victims of gender based violence or people with disabilities - is also one of the objectives of the Strengthening Efficiency and Access to Justice Project, implemented by UNDP and funded by Sweden, in partnership with two non-governmental organizations - INVENTO and the Institute for Penal Reform.

The implementing partners will contribute to increasing the coordination and cooperation among the key actors in the justice sector in the four project intervention regions (Soroca, Criuleni, Cimislia and Comrat). Dialogue platforms will be set up to identify solutions to problems related to effectiveness and access to justice for the local population. As well, within the project, training sessions will be organized for justice professionals in Soroca, Criuleni, Cimislia and Comrat districts,

Similarly, capacity development activities will be conducted for four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the intervention regions, so that they can effectively participate in a constructive dialogue with the justice chain actors and proactively engage in claiming the rights of litigants. Partner NGOs will then become a source of information and expertise for the local authorities as well as for the men and women in the target communities.

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