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Constitutional Tribunal to rule on law allowing post-prison detention of convicts

On 15 November, the Constitutional Tribunal will review the constitutionality of a law that allows authorities to detain most dangerous criminals even after they serve their full prison sentences. The HFHR has been monitoring works on this law since the very beginning and prepared an amicus curiae brief for the Constitutional Tribunal.

The Act on proceedings against mentally disturbed persons who pose a threat to life, health or sexual liberty of others entered into force in January 2014. The Act’s adoption was primarily caused by the then-imminent end of prison sentences of persons sentenced to death in the Communist Poland whose penalty was later commuted to 25 years in prison.

Pursuant to the law, prisoners who have already served their sentences and undergone a custodial therapy programme may be committed to the National Centre for the Prevention of Dissocial Behaviours. This measure will be applied in the case of individuals suffering from personality disorders which may result in them committing serious crimes against life or sexual liberty.

As the works on the Act started, the HFHR noted that the proposed law may be an attempt to circumvent the double jeopardy rule and the non-retroactivity principle. Imprecise rules guiding the placement of convicts at the centre in Gostynin may be a tool for administrative correction of judicial sentences.

The HFHR presented two legal opinions on the Act’s versions proposed by the Ministry of Justice. According to the Foundation, the draft’s main flaw lay in the fact that a placement decision may be based on, among other things, “personality disorders” or “sexual preference disorders” which are not classified as mental illnesses. Another opinion noted that the range of the Act’s application had been extended to other groups of convicts, originally left outside the scope of the law. A corrected version of the Act’s proposal introduced the category of “persons posing threat”, or offenders sentenced for violent crimes who were diagnosed during the term of their incarceration with a mental disorder that puts them at a high risk of committing another crime against life or sexual liberty.

At a later stage of the legislative process, the Foundation urged the President to initiate the constitutional review of the Act already before its entry into force. However, the President signed the Act into law. At that point, the HFHR asked the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Prosecutor General to consider requesting the constitutional review of the act on proceedings against mentally disturbed persons. The Act has been sent to the Constitutional Tribunal for a review, and the Foundation has presented an amicus curiae brief in the case.

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