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Final acquittal for Przemysław S.

The Court of Appeal in Gdańsk has just ruled in the case of Przemysław S. accused of participation in beating a man to death. S. was acquitted on all counts by a final judgment. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has filed a written statement of a community representative in this case.

The judgment marks the end of the sixteen-year ordeal of S. The man was accused of participating in the deadly beating of Piotr W. The incident took place in 1998 in the seaside town of Władysławowo. Around an entry to a beach, a group of men attacked a man coming back home from a disco. The attackers and the victim were members of opposing subcultures.

From the very beginning, the pre-trial investigation was flawed by mistakes. The investigators failed to immediately question eyewitnesses of the crime. They arranged identity parades in a way that was highly suggestive. The fact that the District Prosecutor’s Office in Puck had elected to strictly follow a single line of enquiry made the situation even worse.

Upon the conclusion of the investigation an indictment was filed with the Circuit Court in Gdańsk against three men: Przemysław S., Damian M. and Marcin B. The last two were given a final prison sentence already after the first trial. The case of S. was circulating between court instances, being heard by the Circuit Court in Gdańsk on four separate occasions. During trials, S. was usually found guilty and sentenced to 8 years in prison. The only exception was the acquittal of 2003 passed by the Court of Appeal in Gdańsk, which still failed on appeal in cassation. Only after the fourth trial, a final acquittal was ordered in the first instance.

The judgment was appealed against by a public prosecutor who alleged that the trial court had violated art. 424 of the Code of Criminal Procedure by failing to consider certain pieces of evidence in its reasoning. The prosecution’s argument was shared by the father of Piotr W., who asked the court for justice. The same aspect was highlighted by the defence. In the closing argument, advocate Beata Czechowicz praised the Court of Appeal in Gdańsk for bringing attention to the errors made during the pre-trial proceedings by the law enforcement authorities and the first-instance court. At the same time, she pointed to the manifestly ill-founded appeal lodged by the prosecutor’s Office.

The second instance court agreed with the arguments of the defence and upheld the appealed decision. This means that the trial against S., which lasted over 16 years, finally came to a close.

The above issue is discussed in the statement of a community representative submitted by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. In this written submission, the HFHR argued that a trial of this length constitutes not only a violation of the defendant’s right to have his case heard in a reasonable time, but also it may be considered a manifestation of a degrading treatment by public authorities.

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