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Prison guard case comes to an end

Last week the Supreme Court dismissed a cassation complaint filed by the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office in Białystok. This marked the end of a four-year long trial against Dariusz Basałaj, a prison guard working at the Detention Centre in Białystok. In 2009 Mr Basałaj was charged with contributing to the death of one of the inmates.

The facts of the case go back to April 2008 when Andrzej Ł., a state witness, hanged himself in the in-cell sanitary annex of one of cells in the detention centre in Białystok. The prosecutors conducting the criminal proceedings found that Dariusz Basałaj who was in charge of monitoring the inmates on that day involuntarily caused the inmate’s death due to negligence in discharging his official duties. Investigators accused the guard of failing to observe the cell of Andrzej Ł. through a peephole and to take any steps despite the fact that he had not seen the inmate for almost 12 hours.

The Regional Court in Białystok rejected the contentions of the prosecution and in 2010 acquitted the prison guard of the act imputed to him. The Court held that Mr Basałaj properly monitored the inmate’s cell. The court also said that the detainee’s death had been sudden and unexpected and that no intervention on the part of the prison personnel could have prevented it. The Circuit Court in Białystok fully subscribed to the assessment of evidence made by the first-instance court and ruled that the no-guilty verdict was final.

The Appellate Prosecutor’s Office in Białystok did not agree with these rulings. In the cassation appeal the investigators argued, among other things, that the courts had failed to review all the evidence, treated evidence selectively and failed to consider all the points raised in the appeal. In their opinion the procedural inadvertences of the both courts made it necessary to reopen the proceedings.

The Supreme Court disagreed with this reasoning and dismissed the cassation appeal as manifestly groundless. In the oral reasons for the judgement, the Presiding Supreme Court Judge Michał Laskowski reminded that such incidents as death of Andrzej Ł. had to be looked at in consideration of particular circumstances and reality. In his assessment, it is easy to say what should have been made better after the fact.

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