Defending theHuman Rightto a Fair Trial
February 21, 2013
Over 50% of defendants in Warsaw are unrepresented at early pre-trial detention hearings according to Fair Trials International and leading Polish criminal justice experts. The failure to provide adequate representation and the inability of the Polish Courts to thoroughly review pre-trial motions is resulting in the unnecessary detention of many individuals.
Fair Trials International convened a working group to discuss problems with pre-trial detention in Poland. The working group, comprised of Polish experts in the criminal justice field, was challenged by Fair Trials to identify issues around the standards of decision making in pre-trial detention cases in Poland, reasons for lengthy periods of pre-trial detention and the lack of use of alternatives to detention. Using their experience, participants also identified legal opportunities for reform. Excessive use of pre-trial detention can have a devastating effect on defendants, who may lose their job and be restricted from seeing family or friends despite not having been convicted of any crime. It is also very expensive. The Local Expert Group worked with Fair Trials to produce a communiqué which outlines major problems and identifies suggested reforms.
While Polish laws comply with international standards in relation to pre-trial detention, in practice detention is the general rule rather than the exception and alternatives are rarely used by the courts. The FTI Local Expert Group identified the following reasons for this;
Fair Trials was encouraged to hear about ongoing legal reforms in Poland which, if implemented, will have a positive impact on pre-trial proceedings and detention. Concerns remain however about the gap between law and practice. Key recommendations of the Local Experts Group include; additional training for judges and prosecutors to increase awareness of best practices for the use of alternatives to pre-trial detention, a requirement that lawyers attend the pre-trial hearings of all their clients, and a need for Courts to require better reasons for the extension of pre-trial detention with a presumption of release if no new reasons for continuing detention are put forward.
Fair Trials will now work with NGOs, legal professionals and academics to engage the Polish government in the reform process and to implement training programmes and other recommendations.
We have published a communiqué on the state of pre-trial detention in Poland available in English and Polish.
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Fair Trials Europe is a registered public foundation in Belgium (No. 552688677).
Fair Trials Europe was founded by Fair Trials International
(a registered charity with limited liability in England and Wales, Nos 1134586 and 7135273),
together they form Fair Trials.