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Adversarial process – what lies beneath? Polish criminal process after reform

Wednesday, 1 July, is the effective date of an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure which significantly re-shaped Polish criminal process. The amendment makes criminal proceedings more adversarial, which means that judges will no longer have the leading role in evidence taking; instead, they will assume the position of an umpire, leaving the presentation of evidence at trial in the hands of the parties.

The amendment is also intended to limit the duration of pre-trial proceedings to a minimum, which is to make the whole process more time effective. The new law also introduces a number of procedural guarantees that relate to, among other things, the application of pre-trial detention pending criminal investigations.

The HFHR has been monitoring works on the amendment from their very beginning. In 2012, the Foundation drafted an opinion on the reform proposal and indicated that the proposed measures would only be effective if appropriate changes were introduced into the structure of the prosecution service. The HFHR also called for putting in place a robust free legal aid scheme (the opinion may be accessed here).

Responding to the changes that need to be faced by judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and, last but not least, suspects, defendants and victims of crimes, the HFHR published a report discussing fundamental differences between old law and the incoming regulations.

“Time will show to what extent the lawmakers are able to practically achieve their goal of completely overhauling the basic principles of Polish criminal process and whether the new model of the process will be more effective and just”, says the report’s author, Dr Wojciech Jasiński.

The report “Polish criminal process after the reform” can be downloaded from here.

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