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Acquittal after 15-year trial

In December 2013, the Circuit Court in Gdańsk acquitted Przemysław S. charged with beating a man to death. The cost of the proceedings will be paid from the state’s purse. Mr S. was fighting for his innocence before different courts for more than 15 years.

The Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Gdańsk accused him of beating a man to death in August 1998. He allegedly committed this crime together with Damian M. and Marcin B. The incident took place late at night on a beach in the seaside town Władysławowo. The victim, Piotr W., had been beaten by a group of men and died from his injuries several hours later.

The criminal trial in this case was pending for 15 years. Judgments entered in the case have been reversed three times and the case remanded for rehearing. Finally, in September 2009, the fourth trial started before the Circuit Court in Gdańsk.

In his closing arguments given at a hearing in December 2013, the prosecutor requested the penalty of eight years of imprisonment. It took several hours of the defence closing arguments to present a detailed analysis of the unclear and insufficient evidentiary basis of the prosecution’s indictment. The court emphasised that the evidence collected in the case did not provide a basis for sentencing the defendant to eight years or eight months or even eight days in prison.

In the oral reasons for the decision the court noted that the evidentiary proceedings conducted during the trial have been undoubtedly affected by the length of the proceedings. At the same time the court emphasised that law enforcement authorities had made many mistakes at the very onset of the criminal investigation. For instance, there was a significant delay in interrogation of witnesses and suspects, some evidence had not been secured and identity parades were carried out in a way that might affect their outcomes. Evidence collected in the case confirmed that law enforcement authorities had been conducting the investigation biased by pre-determined conclusions.

“In such lengthy proceedings, the fairness standard should be assessed, and crucially the accused’s right to have their criminal case concluded within a reasonable time period”, says Maria Ejchart-Dubois, member of the “Innocence” Law Clinic staff in charge of the case. “We can go even further and ask if such a long trial may be considered an inhuman treatment within the meaning of the European Convention on Human Rights”, she adds.

The HFHR acted as a community representative in the case.

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