All clients who are or may become involved in criminal proceedings, in particular as injured parties, should be aware that the Code of Criminal Proceedings and the Criminal Code have been amended again. The Amendment was introduced following a change of the government in Poland and most important changes will come into force on 15 April 2016 (the “April Amendment”). Most provisions of the April Amendment apply to all pending and future proceedings, except for proceedings where the act of indictment was brought to the court between 1 July 2015 and 15 April 2016.
The April Amendment annuls many of the changes introduced by the amendment which came into force in July 2015 (the “July Amendment”). We have described the July Amendment in a series of Law Nows released on 10 March 2015 , 23 July 2015, 13 August 2015 , and 2 October 2015.
In particular, the April Amendment:
- restores the inquisitive nature of the criminal proceedings and the leading role of the judge in seeking evidence and interviewing witnesses even when the parties are passive (see our Law-now of 23 July 2015)
- repeals the provisions of the Criminal Code which allowed an injured party to file a request to terminate criminal proceedings if the perpetrator has compensated the injured party for the damage caused by certain crimes, which could have encouraged the perpetrators to compensate for the damage caused by the crime (see our Law-now of 2 October 2015)
- repeals the provisions allowing the accused to claim compensation from the State Treasury for damage caused by security against assets, if the security is not used to the full extent (see our Law-now of 2 October 2015).
However, some of the changes introduced by the July Amendment have been upheld in the April Amendment. This includes in particular:
- provisions permitting the use of private documents prepared specifically for the purposes of a criminal investigation as evidence such as private expert opinions and internal investigation reports (see our Law-now of 13 August 2015),
- new rules for compensation for damage caused by a crime including the repealing of provisions pertaining to adhesive civil actions and the possibility to award compensation of up to PLN 200,000 (see our Law-now of 2 October 2015).
Moreover, the April Amendment has also introduced new provisions, in particular provisions which expressly permit the use of evidence obtained with a violation of the proceedings or by way of a criminal act. The provisions preclude the court from excluding evidence based on the fact that it was obtained by way of e.g. illegal wire-tapping, theft or burglary. The provisions exclude the evidence only if it was obtained by way of a criminal act of a public official committed in connection with his function and only if it consisted in homicide, wilful injury of a person or illegal restriction of a person’s freedom.
Clients should consider engaging professional counsel to represent them in criminal proceedings to which they are or might become a party, as at the moment it may be crucial to determine which provisions of the criminal proceedings are applicable.