New Criminal Procedure
The amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, which change the current model of criminal proceedings, enter into force on 1 July 2015. “This reform did not come out of the blue. It happened for two reasons. Firstly, criminal proceedings were not fair and, secondly, Poland has a big problem with proceedings which last for years,” says advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak in an interview for Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.In the light of the amended law, a judge will not take part in conducting evidence, but – apart from few exceptions – will decide on the basis of evidence and information presented by the parties. Until now, with no engagement on the part of the prosecutor, the court had to find evidence to the benefit of the accusation. “This is why, from the perspective of the accused, it seemed like the defence counsel was defending, the prosecutor was doing nothing, and the court was looking for evidence to his disadvantage,” says advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak. “I think that after the reform it will be easier to ensure the procedural safeguards which the accused is entitled to on the basis of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Whether it is easier to sentence or acquit will depend on the evidence,” he adds. The amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure widen access to a lawyer, which will be common and on demand. However, the new provisions do not raise lawyers’ fees. “The fees were left at the same level as 12 years ago. Lawyers conduct court-appointed cases led by their sense of duty and mission. They conduct them thoroughly and reliably, but also with some bitterness,” says advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak. New provisions also introduce a prohibition on the use of illegally obtained evidence. According to advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak, this is a revolutionary change, but it can cause numerous complications in the future. “The provision is formulated in such a way that evidence advantageous for the accused, but obtained as a result of a crime, can be inadmissible,” he explains. Finally, the amended legislation also strengthens the position of the victim in the proceedings. “The victim gains a very strong position against the accused. A possibility was introduced of a compensatory discontinuation of proceedings, so a type of discontinuation in not very serious crimes, on condition that the damage was mitigated,” says advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak. The whole interview „Enough of inquisition” [Piotr Szymaniak, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, 26 June 2015] is available only in Polish here.