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Imprisoned because of judicial error

Tomasz spent 81 days in prison for the sole reason that another person with the same name had committed an offence during the period of Tomasz’ conditional release. The man has won a personal interests case brought against the State Treasury and is to receive 120,000 zlotys in compensation for moral injury.

Two persons, one name

In December 2012, a district court sentenced Tomasz for a prison term of 14 months, conditionally suspending the execution of the sentence for four years. Later, in June 2014, another district court sentenced a person bearing the same name as Tomasz for 12 months of imprisonment, suspending the sentence for three years.

After some time, the third district court obtained information from the National Criminal Register that a man with the same name as Tomasz had received a criminal sentence. The court decided that the sentence concerned Tomasz and, since it was handed down during the probation period, ordered his committal to prison.

In effect, Tomasz was unlawfully incarcerated from 2 January to 23 March 2015. He was not released until the prison received a written explanation from the third court who notified that Tomasz’ sentence was enforced due to an obvious omission. In both cases, only the names of convicted persons matched but other details were different.

Tomasz sued the State Treasury (represented by the president of the third district court), demanding the payment of 120,000 zlotys as compensation for a moral loss resulting from the infringement of his personal interests.

Judgment

The court decided the case on 19 October by issuing a judgment which ordered the defendant to have an apology published in the national edition of Gazeta Wyborcza and awarded him 120,000 zlotys in damages, plus interest.

The court ruled that the district court’s decision to incarcerate the claimant had been taken immediately, without conducting any fact-check procedure. For this reason, the decision has clearly been unlawful.

Adequate compensation

In the verbal justification of the judgment, the court also noted that the amount of compensation was not grossly excessive, especially given the fact that in this case, it was difficult to evaluate the value of the sustained loss and moral injury. The regional court also emphasised that its decision was influenced by the attitude of representatives of the State Treasury who had been convinced that no violation occurred and had not wanted to resolve the dispute, neither in conciliatory proceedings nor in court-ordered mediation.

“The European Court of Human Rights has many times reiterated that compensation in an amount that is either very low or disproportionate to the severity of a violation would not satisfy with the Convention requirements. In such a case, the right to obtain compensation would be purely theoretical and illusory. Therefore, the court’s award of the full amount of the damages for a moral loss sought by Tomasz is even more satisfying”, says Katarzyna Wiśniewska, HFHR’s lawyer.

The judgment is not yet final.

The case is observed by the HFHR. Tomasz is represented by Mr Dominik Abłażewicz, an attorney with the Abłażewicz & Imieliński chambers.


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