What is the status of the victim in criminal proceedings?
The victim is a natural or legal person whose legal interests were directly affected or threatened by a crime. The victim does not appear in cases involving fiscal offences.
From the very fact of having been victimised by a crime, the victim is deemed to be a party to the investigation. During the course of criminal proceedings the victim is questioned as a witness, benefits from specific rights, and has specific duties.
In court proceedings, to obtain the entitlements of a party the victim must make a declaration of accession to the role of joint plaintiff (private). A victim who does not make such declaration may nonetheless participate in the trial.
The victim may participate in the proceedings personally or through an attorney.
The victim can file a notice of commission of a crime personally and thus initiate proceedings concerning a crime committed against him or appear as a victim in proceedings initiated by law enforcement agencies on their own initiative. There is a category of offences which can be commenced only with the initiative of the victim. These are offences prosecuted at the application of the victim (e.g. theft or fraud against a family member) and offences prosecuted upon private complaint (e.g. defamation).
Before the first hearing in the investigation, the victim receives written instructions on his basic rights and duties.
What possibilities for action does the victim have in a criminal case?
During the course of the investigation, the victim may, among other things:
- Review and copy case files, and also enter a complaint against the refusal to disclose case files
- Request the court to interrogate a witness, when there is a danger that the court will not be able to interrogate the witness at a hearing
- Challenge the record of activities carried out with the participation of the victim
- Request a copy of the record of an activity in which he participated or had the right to participate, and any document originating from him or drafted with his participation and at his request, purchase photocopies of documents from the case file, and, upon consent of the person conducting the investigation, also certified copies or photocopies
- Appeal against a decision not to initiate an inquiry or investigation, a decision to discontinue the investigation, or actions other than decisions and orders that violate his rights
- File a request or consent to a request filed by the suspect for the prosecutor’s referral of the case to a trustworthy institution or individual to conduct mediation between him and the suspect
- Bring an indictment if the prosecutor re-issues a decision to discontinue the investigation (subsidiary indictment). The time limit for bringing an indictment is one month from the date the victim is served with notice of the second decision refusing to commence a proceeding or discontinuing the proceeding. The indictment must be drawn up and signed by an adwokat or legal adviser.
In the course of the trial, the victim can also act as a joint plaintiff who in offences prosecuted publicly brings an indictment alongside the prosecutor or, in certain situations, instead of the prosecutor. As a joint plaintiff, the victim has the right to seek admission of evidence, participate in the entire hearing, question witnesses and lodge appeals.
The victim can also act as a joint plaintiff who enters and supports the indictment in the case of an indictable offence.
The victim or other entitled person may seek redress of loss or compensation for damage caused by a crime.
What duties does the victim have in a criminal case?
Among the victim’s primary duties is the obligation to appear before the investigating authority at any request. The victim who is called as a witness and without justification fails to appear at the request of the investigating authority or leaves the site where the activity is taking place before its completion can be fined up to PLN 3,000 and can also be arrested and brought in by force.
In order to reduce the number of suspects or determine the probative value of the evidence, the authorities may collect the victim’s fingerprints, hair, saliva, handwriting sample or scent sample, or take his photograph or record his voice. With the consent of the victim, an expert may also use technical measures to examine the unconscious reactions of his organism (e.g. a polygraph test).
If the punishability of the offence depends on the state of the victim’s health, the victim cannot object to being inspected and tested, provided that this is not done in an invasive manner or in a closed medical facility. In the event of doubt as to the mental state of the victim, the state of his mental development, or his capacity to observe or reconstruct his observations, the court or the prosecutor may order that the victim be heard in the presence of an expert physician or psychologist, and the victim may not object.
If the victim changes his place of residence or does not reside at the address he has indicated without giving a new address, correspondence served on him at the address last indicated is deemed delivered.