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Retrial in the case of a local councillor charged with abuse of official power

The Circuit Court in Sieradz heard the appeal in the case of Adam Synowiec, a former city councillor in Zduńska Wola. In the first instance, Mr Synowiec was found guilty of abusing his official power, the offence under article 231(1) of the Criminal Code because he signed a leaflet criticising an intending senator during the election campaign. The appellate court ordered retrial.

In the oral reasons for the decision, the Circuit Court in Sieradz noted exceptional circumstances of the case. The reasons of the first-instance judgment contained no legal analysis of the conditional discontinuation of the proceedings brought against Adam Synowiec. The trial court, at the request of the defendant’s attorney included in the appeal, amended the reasons and set another time-limit for filing the appeal.

The Circuit Court in Sieradz held that this had been a serious legal error in the case since the Code of Criminal Procedure provides for no procedure for amending the reasons of the judgment. Consequently, the appellate court could only refer to the original reasons which offered no explanation of the motives for the first-instance decision. The Circuit Court also noted that the defects in the reasons involved the most contentious issue in the case, which should have been thoroughly examined by the trial court, namely the question whether the conduct of Mr Synowiec satisfied a definition of any crime at all.

Let us remind our readers that in this case the HFHR presented an amicus curiae brief to the Circuit Court in Sieradz. According to the HFHR, the conditional discontinuation of the proceedings against the defendant may constitute an unprecedented example of using article 231(1) to suppress criticism directed against a public person expressed by another public servant. In our opinion, the holding that the defendant’s conduct satisfied the test for the offence of abuse of power has no legal basis in the Communal Local Government Act and is an excessive interference in the rights protected under article 54 of the Polish Constitution and Article 10 of the ECHR.

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