Representatives of different services play different roles in criminal proceedings. Let's get to know them a little better.


The main goal of the Public Prosecutor is to guard the rule of law and prosecute crime. One of the obligations of the Public Prosecutor is to circulate information about crime. In many instances, a victim does not have to file a complaint, and anyone actually may report a crime (not only victim). A report is sufficient for the Public Prosecutor to instigate pre-trial proceedings sometimes also against the will of the victim. A separate category comprises crime prosecuted upon a complaint filed or consent to prosecute expressed upon which the public prosecutor instigates the official procedure. A request to instigate prosecution can be written or oral. Such a request should cover all offenders, not only those mentioned by the victim, and the victim is informed about the fact. Thus, it is the victim who decides about instigating and running of the investigation. Once a request is filed, the process follows rules of indictable crime. We should also mention another category of private prosecution where the victim files private charges with the Court. In the case of private prosecution, the Public Prosecutor may instigate an indictable prosecution procedure if the crime involves public interest. It most often happens when the victim is a vulnerable person, elderly or is not able to take care of his/her own interest. The Public Prosecutor is ‘responsible’ for the pre-trial proceedings, supervises the activity of the Police and requests police officers to perform certain actions. Frequently, the Public Prosecutor conducts proceedings him/herself, e.g. interrogating of witnesses, engaging of experts, and participating in a crime scene examination, as well as activities reserved for the Public Prosecutor in the proceedings, such a supressing charges. After the pre-trial phase, the Public Prosecutor analyses evidence collected and makes a decision to file charges with the court against the offender. During the court proceedings, the Public Prosecutor tries to prove charges. The Public Prosecutor’s goal is to prove facts specified in the indictment against the offender who becomes the accused during the court proceedings. To this end, the Public Prosecutor presents evidence in the form of witness statements, expert opinions, and various documents. The Public Prosecutor may appeal the decision of the court of first instance with the court of second instance. The Public Prosecutor also plays an important role as regards provision of information and assistance to the victim. First and foremost, he/she provides information about institutions that may provide assistance to victims of crime. Any activity of the Public Prosecutor is subject to a complaint that can be filed with the prosecutor of higher instance.



An assessor is a person who is appointed to a given case when it is necessary to determine circumstances requiring specific information. This is to do with specialist technical, scientific, medical or artistic knowledge, which is indispensable for better understanding of a given circumstance or evidence concerning a case. For instance, it would be necessary to get the opinion of a doctor to determine and explain what sort of damage to health had been inflicted to a victim of a crime and how the wounds were inflicted. In some cases, it is necessary to appoint a psychologist or a psychiatrist who would provide a delineation of the defendant and evaluate their mental state. The same thing happens when an computer specialist assessor is appointed, who would determine how a given software or a computer were used to commit a crime. In such cases, the doctor, psychologist, computer specialist etc. use their specialist knowledge to explain how a crime was committed. Appointment of an assessor may take place at the request of a litigant (e.g. a victim) or the court or prosecutor. Depending on the court's decision, an assessor would deliver an opinion verbally or in written form. The opinion should include: the name, surname, degree, speciality and job title of the assessor, names and surnames and other data of the persons involved in forming the expert opinion, with assignation of activities performed by each of them, in the case of an institutional opinion – the full name and address of the institution are required, the time of the conducted research and the opinion issuing date, a report on the performed activities and observations, as well as the conclusions based on them, signatures of all the assessors who had taken part in issuing the expert opinion. An assessor's expert opinion is a judgement expressed by an independent person with appropriate specialist knowledge, who has no agenda connected with the final settlement of the case. Such an opinion is to make evaluation of a situation or evidence easier for the court. An assessor receives appropriate remuneration for their work.



You should know that depending on a stage of a criminal trial we differentiate the suspect from the defendant. By no means are these notions identical. A suspect in a criminal trial is a person who has been issued with such a decision upon presentation of an allegation for committing a particular crime, or who has been presented with such an allegation after acceding to interrogation as a suspect without issuing such a decision. The defendant is a person who has been issued an indictment to appear in an appropriate court, or whose public prosecutor has issued a conditional discontinuance of the proceedings. During the whole criminal proceeding, the suspect, and in turn the defendant, is granted a series of rights under valid criminal procedure. Remember, however, that the defendant not only has lots of rights, but also many obligations to meet. If a defendant remains at liberty, they have an obligation to appear at every call of any organ conducting preliminary proceedings, and to inform that organ about every change of residence or stay lasting longer than 7 days – in the case of an unjustified absence of the defendant, the organ conducting proceedings may rule on a compulsory appearance etc. Moreover, pay attention to the fact that a suspect/defendant does not face any liability for hiding the truth by telling lies, so does not face criminal liability for giving false evidence. The suspect, unlike the witnesses, is not cautioned about criminal liability connected with  giving false evidence, which could result in possible criminal liability. This means that a defendant may lie to defend themself.             As you already know, one of the rights of a defendant is the right to a defender. So they can at any point choose a defender. Only in strictly defined cases, i.e. mandatory defence, the defendant must have a set defense attorney. We mean here cases when the defendant is juvenile, deaf, mute, blind, or there is a justified doubt over their sanity, or the court decides the presence of a defender is necessary under circumstances making the defence more difficult, and still in proceedings at the district court as a court of the first instance, if the defendant was charged with a crime or if they are serving a sentence.             Remember that the defendant is considered innocent until their guilt is stated by a lawful  judgement of the court. This stems from the Constitution of Poland and the presumption of innocence under criminal procedure. This presumption shifts the weight of presenting evidence of a persons guilt to the public prosecutor.             The defendant who has been given a disadvantageous ruling by the court of the first instance is granted a right to appeal. The date of the appeal is 14 days hence and begins for each eligible person on the day of the ruling and justification delivery. Remember that the condition for effective appeal is submitting an application for preparing a ruling justification and delivering the ruling along with the justification beforehand.



The role of the defence attorney in a criminal proceeding is to defend and protect the rights of the defendant in the course of the proceeding. Anyone who is accused in criminal proceeding has the right to the assistance of a defense attorney. A defendant who has no defense attorney by choice, may request to be granted a public defense attorney under the condition that they can appropriately prove they cannot afford the defence costs without damage to their well-being of and that of their family. In certain cases if the defendant does not have a defense attorney, a public defense attorney is obligatorily assigned to them by the court. The defense attorney can undertake procedural acts only for the advantage of the defendant. A person who serves as a defense attorney must have the appropriate rights to act, in accordance to the Polish act on bar professionals. The defendant has the right to the presence of a defense  attorney during all acts in which the defendant’s presence is necessary, and may also defend during participation in other acts. To effectively represent the defendant, the defense attorney participates actively in the proceedings via presenting new evidence, submitting motions for securing evidence or other acts. The defense attorney has the right to ask questions to the defendant, witnesses and other proceeding participants. On behalf of the defendant, they submit complaints and appeals against courts rulings or prosecution decisions with which they do not agree. If a question was asked, for example, by the prosecution, the defense attorney may consult with and counsel the defendant to avoid answering a question or to refuse to give explanations.



Any person who holds direct knowledge on vital facts connected with the proceeding, or knows something important that would help reveal the truth, may be called by the organ holding court proceeding to testify. A person who reports to the processing organ themself to give evidence may also be a witness. Criminal procedures impose duties on any person called as a witness, where a lack of performance may result in application of a disciplinary penalty, or even in criminal responsibility. These regulations also grant a witness a number of rights. The basic right of a witness in a criminal proceeding is the right to refuse to testify. The condition here is where one of the litigants of the proceeding is a person close to the witness. This right may be applied, however it is not obligatory, if the witness wants to testify against a close person.  This right is not inhered in divorce proceedings, fatherhood affiliation, denial of fatherhood, or reversion of adoption. During questioning, a witness may refuse to answer a particular question. This right may be used when an answer to a question may put the witness or a close person at risk of criminal responsibility or may cause financial loss. Another right of a witness in a proceeding is the possibility of applying for return travel costs connected with both coming to the court and back, as well as an equivalent of lost income due to participation in the proceeding as a witness. To use this right, one must ask for a return on the day of a trial or on the second day after the trial at the latest. In regard to the fact that a witness, unlike a litigant, has a duty to appear in court to give evidence, they have the right to a day off work. A day off is granted to a witness on the basis of a court appointment or the court secretariat annotation on such an appointment document. A witness has a duty to appear on every summoning, even if they have the right to refuse to testify. As the absence of a witness may cause various serious consequences, the court decides on any fine. In some cases the court may force the witness to appear to testify. A witness is obliged to swear to say the truth. The legislator sets a prison sentence of up to 3 years for giving false statements. If the false statements have no effect on the proceeding outcome, or when a witness corrects the statement before the verdict is reached, then the person acting as a witness may avoid responsibility for giving false statements.



Polish language is the official language in criminal proceedings in Polish courts of law. If a person who does not know Polish takes part in the proceedings, and there is a need to question them, a translator must be summoned. The only criteria that determines the obligation of summoning a translator for a person is the level of proficiency in Polish language of that person. The obligation of appointing a translator is independent of the character in which the person is to be questioned. It is irrelevant whether it concerns the defendant or witness. A translator must also be summoned if there is a need of translating into Polish a document made in a foreign language, or the other way round, or to acquaint the litigant with the content of the evidence taken. A translator is a proxy to the court, owing to whom this organ can communicate with a person being questioned or to become acquainted with the content of a document.  A translator must have translation skills from Polish to the foreign language or from the foreign language to Polish. For example, if the witness in proceedings is a person who does not speak Polish. In such a case, a translator is appointed who translates into Polish what the witness says, or translates all the questions into the language the witness speaks. A translator must be appointed when there is a need of questioning a deaf or mute person, and written communication is not enough. It's vital to highlight that a witness does not cover any costs connected with the participation of a translator.



How a psychologist can help. You should know that a victim of crime and his/her relatives have the right to free specialist assistance of a psychologist. You may encounter various emotions, nagging thoughts, questions, doubts, frequent fatigue and/or physical pain. Being a victim of crime is hard for everyone, so it is understandable that it might be difficult for you as well. A professional psychologist will support and understand you. A psychologist becomes your companion helping you to go through the aftermath of a crime. Most importantly, you are not alone. You have a person and place to provide you with professional service whenever needed. During a meeting you can talk as much as you are ready to share. No one is going to push you to do anything. Of course, it is important that you talk about difficult issues without concealing them, but it is always you who decide when the right moment comes. A psychologist will always carefully listen to you and understand emotions that may come up. A psychologist will pay attention to what you say and how you feel about it. Sessions with a psychologist are based on acceptance, trust and good relationship. It is important that a professional assistance is used not only by adults but children as well. Even if the latter were not direct victims but witnesses of a crime, they should receive support of a specialist. Since children may also frequently encounter difficult emotions and concerns, so it is good to have a well-trained professional talking to them. Remember, a psychologist will never be judgmental or criticize you. Every day, a psychologist deals with different people and situations, and everyone is considered equally important.




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