Enhancing Access and Quality of Justice Services in Peru

April 10, 2017

The Peruvian government instituted an electronic filing and notification system to implement quicker and more secure processes in its justice system. Additionally, Judicial Academy training programs were consolidated, and Free Legal Aid Centers, offering conciliation services and strengthened support for family and labor cases, were scaled up across the country. Moreover, a Crime Observatory was established at the Attorney General’s Office to feed legislative- and security-related policy.

Challenge

Despite advances in criminal procedural reform and more transparent processes, lack of access to justice was a fundamental challenge in Peru. The costs of accessing justice services was high, including formal costs such as attorneys’ and court fees and informal ones such as bribes paid and opportunity costs for time invested in the process. Another challenge was the limited technical capabilities and professionalization of staff at the judiciary and in the Attorney General’s Office, as no permanent system existed to select, evaluate, train, or remove judges and prosecutors. Related challenges to professional development were weak accountability mechanisms and inefficiencies in judicial processes. Finally, the gradual implementation of the new criminal procedural code (NCPC) required coordination and close cooperation among the central stakeholders, including the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice (MINJUS), the Attorney General’s Office, the Judicial Academy, and the National Judicial Council.

Approach

The World Bank’s 2007–11 Country Partnership Strategy for Peru identified as an essential pillar the modernization of state institutions, with special focus on improving justice and reducing corruption. Additionally, improving access to justice (understood as both having the opportunity to present claims before a competent authority and receiving a timely process) ­­was one of the government’s main priorities. The Justice Services Improvement II Project sought to improve the quality of service delivery of the institutions forming part of the Justice Service Administration System and to enhance access to justice services. Overall, project activities targeted improved justice services delivery, strengthened managerial capabilities of justice-sector institutions, and enhanced transparency and access to justice.   


Results

Through the two phases of the Justice Services Improvement Project, Peru achieved the many crucial goals it had set for improving the accessibility and quality of all levels of its Justice Service Administration System. Specific attainments included the following:

·         The successful implementation of the e-filing and electronic notification systems translated into quicker and more secure processes through consultation of virtual case files and judicial resolutions, thus saving time by eliminating the need for attorneys, judges, and prosecutors to request physical files and reducing the risk of loss or document tampering.

·         In the case of the Judicial Academy, the project successfully supported the development of a training program for magistrates and prosecutors, which was made mandatory for promotions under the judicial career framework. The consolidation of the training programs raised the technical capacity of legal service providers as evidenced by the increase in the number of average lecture hours per participant from 23 hours in 2011 to 44 hours. In addition, all judges and prosecutors are now evaluated according to the parameters set by the Judicial Career Law. Likewise, the project supported the Attorney General´s Office in documenting and redesigning prosecution processes as well as processes for managing legal medical and forensic evidence to the standards set by the NCPC.

·         The project supported enhanced access to justice by increasing the number of free legal aid centers across the country to 49. These centers, operated by MINJUS, facilitate provision of free legal services, thus extending the justice sector’s ability to reach those in need of its services.  Moreover, the new judiciary’s new electronic file system facilitates 24/7 online consultation of any necessary files. 


Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, contributed US$ 20 million to implement the project, and the government of Peru provided a counterpart with national resources amounting to US$ 10 million, later increased by US$ 1.41 million, for a total of US$ 11.41 million.

Partners

The project was implemented with the collaboration of the Ministry of Justice, the judiciary, the National Judicial Council, the Judicial Academy, and the Attorney General’s Office, who operationalized the project on the ground. These institutions were part of the project Steering Committee, a key platform for fostering collaboration, dialogue, and lead initiatives with a broad and interconnected scope. In addition, the Steering Committee contributed to enhanced inter-institutional coordination with participating agencies beyond the project.

 

Moving Forward

Discussions between the newly elected authorities and the Bank indicate interest in preparing a new operation to expand the implementation of the electronic file and e-notification systems to district courts beyond those initially targeted by the project. Moreover, judicial reform appears to continue to be a central area of interest for the government as part of the president’s governance and anticorruption agenda, and it will likely be included in the new Country Partnership Framework for Peru for FY17 to FY21, currently under preparation.

Beneficiaries

The direct beneficiaries of the project were the judiciary, the National Judicial Council, the Judicial Academy, the Ministry of Justice, and the Attorney General’s Office. However, in addition to these direct beneficiaries, the ultimate beneficiaries of the project activities are users of the justice services provided by the participant organizations. For example, the Free Legal Aid centers are attended by highly vulnerable segments of the population who greatly benefit from alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and enhanced support throughout their legal proceedings. 

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Justice
The project supported enhanced access to justice by increasing the number of free legal aid centers across the country to 49.