There has been a revolutionary change in Polish criminal law which came into force 1st July 2015. These procedures change the roles of judges, prosecutors and lawyers.

image Polish judge holding up hands

The legal system in Poland has changed

A change from the inquisitional system to the adversarial system has been introduced, in which a judge will be determining the truth, not investigating it.

The judge will no longer be an active participant of a trial, he will only take part in it as an observer or an arbitrator. He will be responsible for solving disagreements between prosecution and defense.

The judge will not have to familiarise himself with the court records before a trial – this task will be forwarded to the prosecutor.

Previously, the court would check if the accused had money to hire a defender during a trial. Since now, public defenders will be assigned to everyone, but at the end of a trial a judge will decide whether the accused has to pay for the lawyer or not.

The criminal case of Amber Gold will be carried out according to the old procedures. It shows the absurdity of today’s understanding and application of the rules. I do not know if the process will ever end. Court records have 16 thousand volumes of acts! Before the trial, the judge will need to be familiar with them to prepare for the case. Suppose he reads 20 volumes a day, each 200 pages long. He would still need 3 or 4 years to read all of them, assuming that during that period he would not be doing anything else. It’s pure mathematics.
– explains Marcin Łochowski, judge of the Warsaw-Praga District Court in Warsaw

The prosecutors will be given other responsibilities. They will have to prove the criminal guilty at court by gathering reliably proven evidence. If damning evidence they collected is too weak and not enough to prove a criminal’s guilt, the trial will end in an acquittal.

The statistics quoted by “Gazeta Wyborcza” show that the number of acquittals may increase tenfold (now they only constitute 2% of all trials).

The court will not conduct its own investigations, but – like in American movies – the prosecutor and the defender will fight in the courtroom. The revolution aims for a fair ending.

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