In 2011, when Judicial Reform and Government Accountability project (JRGA) started, misdemeanor courts have been an integral part of the Serbian judiciary for a little bit over a year, having evolved into fully-fledged courts from organs of the local self-government. They were plagued by substandard working conditions in often inadequate facilities with insufficient and outdated computer equipment and heavily paper-based business processes that led to delays and redundancies in case processing.
Fast forward four and a half years later, Serbian misdemeanor courts, judges and staff have come a long way becoming what the Serbian Minister of Justice, Nikola Selakovic, recently deemed ‘that part of the judiciary that can bring back the public trust into the courts in Serbia’. The process was a multi-faceted undertaking requiring joint efforts of the courts, the Ministry of Justice, and support from JRGA. It involved the changes to the legislative framework resulting in the new Law on Misdemeanors that came into effect on March 1, 2014. The Law brought efficiencies to the misdemeanor procedure, introduced the Misdemeanor Order boosting the voluntary compliance rate to 74% (in comparison to 30% with the mandatory fines under the old Law), and established registries of sanctions and unpaid fines. In parallel, numerous facility upgrades were carried out where JRGA sought to leverage funds with those of the Ministry wherever possible in order to achieve maximum impact and improve access to justice and service to court users by reengineering and modernizing available spaces.
The biggest change to the everyday functioning of the misdemeanor courts has been introduced recently with the release of SIPRES – the Serbian acronym for what is a complete misdemeanor case management system. Namely, JRGA has been working on producing software for Serbian misdemeanor courts for the past two and a half years. The first modules of the system were released back in March 2014 to support the functioning of the two registries required by the new Law – registry of sanctions and registry of unpaid fines.
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