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Correspondence with court and imprecise instructions

Claimant lost a civil suit in first instance proceedings. After the claimant lodged an appeal, second instance court dismissed it stating that the application for delivery of the judgement has been submitted beyond the deadline due to the fact that it was sent not by the Polish Post Office but by a private operator. HFHR drafted a complaint to the ECtHR in the case.

Between 2006 and 2010 the applicant was deprived of his liberty. After his release he sued the State Treasury arguing that the conditions in the place of his detention violated his dignity. He stated, among other things, that the cells were overcrowded, dirty and mouldy, the meals were of low-quality and moreover his contact with the outside world was unreasonably limited. A first instance court dismissed his lawsuit. The court stated that although the applicant spent over a month in an overcrowded cell, he did not suffer any harm that would justify admission of the claim.

The applicant filed an application for the delivery of a copy of the judgement together with a statement of reasons. However, he sent the application by the courier service InPost and not the Polish Post. During the period in which the proceedings were taking place, InPost was the operator responsible for the service of process.  That is why the applicant was certain that sending the application through this operator would be treated in the same way as it would be if the document was sent by the Polish Post or directly brought to the court. The court delivered to the applicant a copy of the judgement against which he appealed.

However, the court of appeal rejected the appeal, stating that it was filed after the deadline. In the opinion of the court, the application for the delivery of the judgement was ineffectively submitted. According to the law, such application must be filed within 7 days from the date of pronouncement of the judgment and this deadline is met if the application is filed at a “Polish post office of a designated operator” within the specified time. There is only one such operator and it is the Polish Post. That means that filing the application with another operator does not suspend the deadline.

“The most important allegation stated in the application is the violation of the right to a fair trial. In our opinion before making the decision the court of appeal did not take into consideration numerous circumstances of the case, which were justifying the mistake of the applicant, thus acting in an exceedingly formalistic way”, explained Marcin Szwed, a lawyer of the HFHR.

The Foundation noted that the applicant could have been guided by the content of the instruction according to which “sending an application by a post office is tantamount to filing the complaint in court”. The instruction did not state that such effect will be achieved only by sending the application by Polish Post. The court did not take into consideration the fact that the activities of the applicant were thorough and the delays only slight.

“The court also did not take into consideration the fact that the case concerns an especially important issue, namely compensation for undignified treatment in a penitentiary facility”, added Katarzyna Wiśniewska, a lawyer of the HFHR.

Second allegation stated in the complaint is the violation of the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment. In the complaint it was stated that being detained for over a month in an overcrowded cell constitutes a violation of human dignity. The fact that no compensation has been paid to the applicant for this violation contravenes the Convention requirements.

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