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Almost three years’ imprisonment for a crime he did not commit – and reforms to protect liberty

Leszczak v. Poland  | 2006

Almost three years’ imprisonment for a crime he did not commit – and reforms to protect liberty

… the grounds given for the applicant’s pre-trial detention were not “sufficient” and “relevant” to justify holding him in custody for over 2 years and 10 months …

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, March 2006

Background

Wrongfully accused of murder and attempted burglary, Andrzej Leszczak was detained for almost three years before he was finally acquitted. He continually protested his innocence and insisted that he would attend trial, but his requests to be released before his trial were refused.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that the Polish authorities had not given proper reasons for holding Mr Leszczak for over two years and ten months. His applications for release had not been properly assessed. In particular, other methods had not been explored for making sure the he attended his trial. This meant that Mr Leszczak had been detained for almost three years in circumstances that violated his right to liberty.

Follow-up

Following a series of similar cases, Poland made extensive reforms that led to a massive reduction in violations of the right to liberty in Poland. The reforms included:

  • Measures to increase the use of alternatives to pre-trial detention in appropriate cases;
  • Legal changes to introduce maximum periods of pre-trial detention and improve decision-making about when pre-trial detention in necessary;
  • Training of judges and prosecutors on the protection of the right to liberty.