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Access to wire tapping statistics – Provincial Administrative Court has revoked a decision of the head of the Central Anticorruption Bureau

The Provincial Administrative Court (WSA) in Warsaw revoked the decision of the Bureau’s director to discontinue the proceedings initiated upon the HFHR’s motion to disclose statistics on investigative methods used by the CBA, including wire tapping (case no. II SA/Wa 2695/11).

Giving the oral justification of the judgment, the court noted the huge significance of the right to public information for developing a civic society. This right, according to the Court, gives the society an ability to exercise control over the actions of public authorities.

Referring to the discontinuation decision, the WSA held that it is the citizen who decides when his or her need for access to information is satisfied. The Court said that the reporting duties of the Prosecutor General do not limit citizens’ access to information.

Procedural history

In April 2009 the HFHR requested the head of the CBA to disclose statistics on investigative methods. The Bureau head twice refused to disclose information, citing state secrecy. The Foundation appealed against the refusal to the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw. Initially, the Provincial Court dismissed the HFHR’s complaint but in October 2010 the Supreme Administrative Court revoked the dismissal, ordering re-examination of the motion. During the retrial the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw revoked the challenged decisions.

In autumn 2011 the head of the CBA reconsidered the motion. First he refused to disclose information and lately discontinued the proceedings. The CBA director argued that the Foundation should address its motion to the Prosecutor General since it is him who reports each year to the Sejm and Senate on the number of cases in which prosecutors ordered or denied the application of investigative methods.

Beata Czechowicz, counsel for the HFHR, argued before the Provincial Administrative Court that the scope of the Prosecutor General’s report, as a measure of parliamentary scrutiny, is incompatible with the information sought by the Foundation.

Ms Czechowicz noted that the case played a positive role in developing the jurisprudence of Polish administrative courts. As she pointed out, during the two years of the proceedings duration, the legislation governing access to confidential information had undergone a fundamental change.

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