In the past, the victim of a crime played a very minor role in criminal proceedings – the victim’s only relevance was to provide evidence. This has changed markedly during the last decades. The change was driven in large part by the lobbying of many victim support organisations, but also by the research (victimology), which investigated demands and needs of crime victims. Today, victim rights are considered human rights. Many international and European organisations are taking care of the implementation of victim rights.

The European Union has enacted Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.
The Directive, which applies to all 28 EU Member States , provides for the following:

  • Victims must be treated with respect.
  • Victims must be informed of their rights so that they understand them and are informed about their case. All Member States must ensure that victims have cost-free access to victim support services.
  • Victims must be allowed to participate in the proceedings if they wish so. If they choose to get involved, they have to be assisted. Especially vulnerable victims such as children, victims of sexual assault or persons with disabilities must be appropriately protected.
  • Victims also have the right to be protected during the police investigation and the trial.

Victims of crime have special rights during the criminal proceedings. These rights are mostly contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure.


You have the right to submit an application in the preparatory proceedings as well as in court proceedings for the appointment of an ex officio attorney if you prove that your financial or family situation does not allow you to incur the costs of an attorney of your choice. If you have received a summons to the police, prosecutor's office or court for questioning and you cannot appear for important reasons, e.g. a significant distance from your place of residence, a difficult family situation or illness, the need to care for a disabled person) you have the right to submit an application to be questioned by way of legal assistance by the procedural body closest to your place of residence or at your place of residence. If you are a helpless person, in particular due to age or health, your rights in criminal proceedings may be performed by a person under whose care you remain (e.g. your spouse, adult children, and even a stranger who takes care of you). If you are the person closest to the defendant (e.g. mother, child, grandfather, sibling, cohabitant, sister-in-law) you have the right to refuse to testify, which means that your previously submitted testimony cannot be disclosed and can not be used as evidence. If you are in a particularly close personal relationship with the accused (friendship, engagement) you have the right to apply for exemption from testifying. However, failure to submit the above-mentioned application does not automatically release you from giving evidence, and only a decision of the court or the prosecutor decides about it. If you are questioned by the court and you believe that the presence of the accused at the hearing could embarrass your testimony (due to fear, fear of revenge, embarrassment), you can submit a request to be heard in the absence of the accused. Your statement will then be read to the defendant and the defendant has the right to ask you questions through the court. If you live together with a person who is being prosecuted for committing a violent crime to your detriment, and you are afraid that he will commit a violent crime against you again (especially when the accused threatened to commit this crime), you have the right to ask the prosecutor or the police to order the perpetrator to leave the flat occupied with you. If there is a well-founded fear that the defendant will re-offend against you, you have the right to appeal to the prosecutor to apply police supervision to the accused, combined with a ban on approaching or contacting you with you .



The provisions that require special protection of children victims of crime in criminal proceedings are: the Act of 13 June 2013 amending the Act - Penal Code and the Act - Code of Criminal Procedure and the Regulation of the Minister of Justice of 18 December 2013 on the method of preparation of the hearing conducted in specified mode in art. 185a–185c of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Article 185a § 1–3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure defines the protective conditions for the participation of children under the age of 15 in questioning in cases of crimes committed with the use of violence or unlawful threat or specified in chapters XXIII, XXV and XXVI of the Penal Code. These specific conditions are: the aggrieved party, who at the time of the interrogation is under 15 years of age, is interrogated as a witness only when his testimony may be of significant importance for the resolution of the case; as a rule, one-time interviewing; yyconducting questioning by the court at a meeting (in preparatory proceedings pursuant to Art. 329 § 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure); yy limited list of persons authorized to participate in the hearing; the possibility of participating in the interrogation of a parent or an adult person whom he/she will indicate the child (provided that this does not limit the freedom of expression of the injured child); ycompulsory participation of an expert psychologist; yy obligatory recording of the course of the interrogation with the use of a device recording image and sound; yyobligation to conduct the interview in a room specially prepared for this purpose. IMPORTANT: According to many experts, every child (i.e. a person under the age of 18), regardless of what crime they have been subjected to, should be interrogated in accordance with the above, the so-called safe mode and in a friendly place. Therefore, you have the right to request a hearing of a child - a person injured by a crime (but also a witness of a crime) in accordance with Art. 185a § 1-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure due to a justified fear that an interrogation in other conditions could have a negative impact on the child's mental state (pursuant to Art. 185a § 4 of the Code of Criminal Procedure)



​On 8th April 2015, the Victim and Witness Protection and Assistance Law became effective. The Law defines rules, conditions and scope of protection and assistance offered to the victim and witness and their relatives,who participate in the criminal andfiscal proceedings, when their life or health might be at risk. Protection and assistance measures include: Protection during proceeding which can be provided in case of riskto your life or health.Such protection may include anassistance of an accompanying police officerduring a part of the proceeding you are involved in, and on your way to and from the venue of the proceeding. Personal protection, provided in case of high risk to your life or health in relation to criminal or fiscal proceedings, if there is such a need for long-term protection;these include criminal proceedings under Article 197 § 1 and 2 (rape) and Article 207 of the Penal Code Law of 6th June 1997(maltreatment), and in specific justified instances also other proceedings. Personal protection may involve; Permanent or temporary assistance of accompanying policeofficer Temporary surveillance covering you and the surrounding Indicating safe places of stay, as well as safe time and manner of transportation Defining scope, conditions and manner in which you may contact other people. Change of the place of your stay, can be applied in case of high risk to your life or health in relation to the criminal or fiscal proceedings, if it is necessary to apply long-term protection and other protection and assistance measures might be insufficient during first instance proceedings within the jurisdiction of a district court, and in specific justified instances of other proceedings. Assistance in changing your place of stay will involve some organizational effort to enable your stay in another location. This may include provision of a temporary dwelling unit that will suit your basic needs or help to rent such a unit. The package may also include helping you move or settle and deal with all procedures related to the change of your stay. If your place of stay has been changed and you do not have subsistence money or cannot start working since your life or health is at risk, you can be granted a financial support to meet your basic needs, cover the whole or a part of rent for your dwelling unit, as well as cover the cost of medical care if you are not covered by a mandatory health insurance. You need to remember, however, that bills for the use of your dwelling unit, including electricity, gas, water, sewage and waste, as well as compensation due to wear and tear will be deducted from your financial support. Protection and assistance measures will be adjusted according to the risk to your life or health and require your explicit consent. While assessing the risk, the following is considered: personal characteristics and conditions, relationship to offender, type, manner and circumstances of crime, offender’s motives.   A decision about applying protection and assistance is made by the Regional/Chief PoliceCommander relevant for the domicile ofthe victim,witness or their relatives concerned.Those measures are applied after a request is filed with the Police running the investigation or the Public Prosecutor,the Police running a pre-trial proceeding or the Court. The institutions listed above may also request to apply one of the measures, however to do this they require your explicit consent. Your request to apply protection or assistance should describe circumstances justifying the use of measures for each person concerned. After you fileyour request with the Regional/Central Police Commander,it is carefully examined regarding circumstances justifying the use of protection and assistance corresponding to risk involved. A decision is finally made by a relevant Police Commander within maximum 14 days, and you are notified immediately about the decision. In case you are refused the above measures, you have 7 days to appeal the decision. However, if no other circumstances occurred in the meantime that justifythe use of protection and assistance, your appeal will not be processed. Yet another form of support provided according tothe law is the psychological assistance that you may use during the investigation, pre-trial proceedings or the court proceedings. Such support is provided by institutions which receive earmarked funding from the Victimsand Post-release Support Fund. Before receiving protection or assistance, you are requested to provide a relevant Police Commander with a statement that you will follow rules and recommendations regarding protection and assistance and other obligations specified in the law. In case you receive personal protection or help to change your place of stay, you are required to provide a relevant police department with information necessary to apply those measures, including information about contacts with family members and friends, your material status, and health. You need to know that a relevant Police Commander may revoke protection and assistance when: a)  your situation has changed and such measures are no longer needed, b) you refuse to testify during the proceedings, c) you are accused of providing false information during the proceedings, d) you intentionally provide misleading or hide important information regarding circumstances underlying decision to apply protection and assistance, e) you fail to follow rules and recommendations regarding measures applied, f)  you misuse protection and assistance, and g) you resign yourself from protection and assistance.   When protection and assistance are revoked due to reasons stated above in b, c, or d,you are required to reimburse the financial assistance provided. The Police Commander defines amount to be reimbursed, date and institution relevant to collect it. When protection and assistance are revoked, your relatives are no longer able to use such measures as well. The law also introduces the European Protection Order. Thus, it is possible to transfer protection and assistance measures to another member state of the European Union.



If you are a victim of crime, you have the right to inform authorities about the fact. Then, you will be heard by police officersor a prosecutor and you will be able to tell them about the incident, its circumstances and the perpetrator, provided you know the person. You also have the right to receive relevant assistance from the authorities,as well as free psychological and legal help, if needed. Once the police or the prosecutor decide to launch the preparatory proceeding (inquiry or investigation in case of more serious crime) to catch the perpetrator, you may be interrogated again by the police or the prosecutor if they need additional information about the incident. Then, you will be able to describe in greater detail of what happened and if you missed any detail during the first inquiry, you will have an opportunity to supplement your testimony. Once the perpetrator has been caught and accuseddue to the action launched by the police or the prosecutor, you will be called by the court to respond to some questions that the court, prosecutor or defence lawyers may have. If you are a victim of a sexual crime, do not be ashamed to inform authorities about the fact. You will be asked to provide only the most important information, such as dateand place of the incident, perpetrator, possible witnesses, and there will be no need to describe details of the incident. If it is necessary to interrogate you as a witness, this will take place during a special court session without the presence of the perpetrator.You will not have to appear in person during the hearing at the court. On that occasion, the court will only listen to the recording of your previous interrogation. Victims of violence, false imprisonment, trafficking in people, torment or threat of, or when, for instance, a nude picture is taken without a person’s consent and the person is below 15 at that time,such people require special care.In such instances, as a rule, the interrogation takes place only once and it is conducted by the court at the presence of a psychologist in a special room (i.e. ‘blue room’) designated to that purpose.The presence of the perpetrator during such interrogation is prohibited. Similar conditions can be applied in case of victims who are between 15 and 18years of age, if it is necessary due to their psychological condition.



If you are a victim of a crime and you informed the authorities, the police or the prosecutor will undertake actions to catch the perpetrator. It may happen, however, that the prosecutor or the police refuses to launch the preparatory proceeding (inquiry or investigation in case of more serious crime). This may happen when the authorities make an official decision to refuse launching the inquiry/investigation. It is also possible that the proceeding is launched but after evidence is collected and witnesses interrogated, the prosecutor decides that information collected during the inquiry/investigation is insufficient to state that a crime has been committed. Then, a decision is made to discontinue the proceeding. Remember that in both instances the authorities are obligated to inform you about the fact by delivering a copy of their decision. The decision should include a note about the possibility to appeal the decision. Then, you will have 7 days to do that.You will have the right to appeal the decision to the court. In such a case, you can require the authorities to provide you with access to evidence and files collected during the inquiry/investigation.Once you appeal the decision, the court examines actions taken by the prosecutor or the police, and decides whether their decision was right or otherwise it is waived. In the latter case, the court may require the authorities to undertake specific actions defined by the court or to collect additional evidence. It is important to remember that the decision will be delivered to the address you have given to the authorities for correspondence. If you change your address in the meantime, please promptly inform the authority responsible for the proceeding. You should also know that if you are a victim and notified the authorities about the crime, if within 6 weeks you are not informed about launching or refusal to launch inquiry/investigation, you can complain to the superior prosecutor or the prosecutor supervising the authority notified about the crime. The complaint has to be processed within 30 days.



Being a victim of crime, you have the right to launch mediation with the perpetrator. Mediation is a voluntary method of resolving conflicts, which creates a possibility to start a dialoguebetween the perpetrator and the victim,explain contentious issues and reach agreement. The mediation is conducted by an unbiased and neutralprofessional mediator. Mediation may be requested by the court or the court referendary,and at the stage of the preparatory proceeding (inquiry or investigation) this can be done by the prosecutor or any other authority conducting the proceeding. You can also launch mediation yourself, and the same applies to the perpetrator. Remember that themediation can start when both parties express their consent. Mediatorsare trained regarding the proceeding and their role is to support and facilitate communication between the parties, in other words between the victim and the perpetrator. Mediation can help you expressing your problemsand feelings related to the crime and stop being afraid of the perpetrator, who in turn will have an opportunity to understand his/her deeds, harm he/she caused and consider compensation for all bad things he/she has done. The mediation is free, confidential and voluntary. Remember that at every stage of mediation you can withdraw without any negative consequences. The mediator is obligated to keep all circumstances he/she learned during the mediation confidential, and then the person cannot be interrogated in the court. During mediation you have the possibility to come into agreement with the perpetrator, and such agreement may include the method of compensating the harm caused. Once the agreement is reached, the proceeding continues but the result of the mediation will influence the proceeding and in the case of less serious crime, it may lead to the termination of the criminal proceeding. It is important that this may take place upon your request. Mediation is not a sign of weakness on the part of the victim. Quite contrary, it shows the intention to take part in decision making. With the support of a professional mediator you will be able to eliminate fear caused by the incident and discuss ways of compensating harm caused that are satisfactory to both parties.



Victims in need of special protection are those people who due to their personal features, type and nature of crime and its circumstances are particularly exposed to negative aftermath of those incidents, recurrent victimisation, and risk of threat or retaliation.In the case of such people,high level protection needs to be applied. Every case should be considered individually depending on its circumstances. All activities related to such victims should involve especially trained personnel, and in case the victim has to be interrogated more than once, this should be in principle done by the same person. It is necessary to avoid direct contact between the victim and the perpetrator, for instanceduring a police line-up.Any such activity should avoid situations in which the perpetrator can recognise the victim.Similar principles apply to witnesses, who while standing in front of a court can be exposed to retaliation by the perpetrator or people related to him/her. Once you are in such a situation, a court or a prosecutor can apply those measures to conceal your identity during legal activities. Those may involvea remote interrogation using relevant technical equipment. In certain instances, your interrogation may be confidential, without public, if your private interest might be at stake, e.g. your intimate affairs. Victims who require special protection due to circumstances of the crime have the right to resort to a specialistpsychologist, social worker or organizations established to provide assistance to crime victims.



If you are a victim of crime at the territory of another member state of the European Union, the situation might be particularly uncomfortable for you. Apart from fear related to the incident you may suffer due to a language barrier and the lack of knowledge about whom to contact to seek help. You should know then that in all EU member states you enjoy the same rights as any citizen of that country and the authorities in that state are required to provide relevant help. First and foremost, you may contact a Polish consulate at the territory of a country where a crime was committed.You will then receive relevant assistance by the consul, and you will be instructed about further steps regarding your protection and rights. You can contact a police station directly in the country where the crime took place.The police will receive your crime notification and if you do not speak their language, you have the right to be assisted by an interpreter who will help you communicating with the authorities and guide you regarding local procedures. On your request, the police has to inform the Polish consul about the situation. If you are a victim at the territory of another EU member state and do not notify local police about the crime, you can do it once you are back in Poland. Then, the matter is transferred to authorities of a relevant state where the crime took place.Any procedure, such as interrogation, can be performed using legal assistance or cooperation between the authorities at the domicile of the victim and those in the country where the crime took place. If you have to be interrogated by the authorities of that state, this can be done at the Polish court or through a videoconference. You should also remember that if the crime took place abroadand you suffered a loss of health, you are entitled to a compensation from that country to cover the cost of your medical treatment. In such an instance, the perpetrator does not have to be caught. You need to contact your district prosecutor and file a request for compensation. Your request, together with necessary documentation, is transferred to the authorities in the member state where you became a victim.




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