Changes to Polish law may benefit wealthy white-collar criminals
New revisions the Polish Penal Code of Conduct, due to come into force in July 2015, will dramatically favor wealthy defendants and inhibit successful prosecutions, according to the Polish General Prosecutor’s Office, who labeled the new rules as “scandalous,” according to Puls Biznesu, a Polish business daily.
“[Planned changes] are scandalous and favors defendants. The prosecution office is not prepared for its implementation,” said Dariusz Barski, a former state prosecutor, as cited by Puls Biznesu. “A judge becomes only a passive arbitrator that only listens to what both sides of proceedings have to say. The judge, therefore, will not be looking for the truth anymore, but evaluating which side is more convincing.”
The changes in the Polish Penal Code of Conduct prepared by the Ministry of Justice are seen as controversial especially with regard to prosecutors’ budgets, as well as in regards to the time spent on cases and equality. According to Mateusz Martyniuk, a spokesperson of the General Prosecution Office, a new rule that gives defendants the right to submit privately-engaged “professional expertise” will unfavorably impact budgets amd openly favors wealthy defendants who can afford high legal costs.
“In white-collar cases this change will put wealthy defendants in an especially privileged position, as they can afford to reach experts at a cost, even from abroad,” said Martyniuk, as cited by Puls Biznesu. “At the same time the prosecution budget is very limited.”
Additionally, such “orders” will delay court cases, as defendants are likely to intentionally order expertise simply to delay ongoing prosecutions.
“With regard to the biggest white-collar cases the prosecution will request a well-known and respected specialists for expertise,” said Martyniuk as cited by the paper. “Such experts already make up the largest number of orders, so the waiting time for their opinions is already being counted in months.
“After the change the waiting time will likely lengthen further, as a need for expertizes will increase.”
With regard to successful prosecutions, the General Prosecution Office has advised the Ministry of Justice that the implementation of planned changes will lead to radical increase in the number of acquittals, especially in white-collar crime cases, which in 2013 stood at only 1.5 percent.
“This means that for each 100 accused less than two persons were acquitted,” said Martyniuk, as cited by Puls Biznesu. “This proves the prosecution’s effectiveness.”
A former general prosecutor, Janusz Kaczmarek, countered saying that in his opinion the changes are going in the right direction.
“At present, prosecution is often based on only one expert witness, not taking anything else into consideration,” said Kaczmarek, as cited by the paper. “[Shortly] this will change and thus will introduce equality between sides.”
The Ministry of Justice has also declared that the new changes should speed up court proceedings and will not affect either the tactics or techniques of conducting investigations, including those connected to white-collar crimes.
“The prosecution will continue gathering sufficiently convincing evidence on which to base an indictment, as it does under current laws. Only the rank and introduction of the evidence during proceedings changes,” the Ministry of Justice press office stated.