Absolute life sentence is a hidden death sentence – remarks concerning latest amendments in the Polish Penal Code by judge Jakub Kościerzyński.

The assertion that in order to decrease the number of crimes, one must tighten the punishments is false for two reasons.

The latest amendment to Polish Penal Code is based on the philosophy if retaliation, lex talionis or an ‘eye for the eye’ principle, which have been applied in Europe in the 19th century. It is worth mentioning that then pickpockets came to rob viewers who were watching public applying of the punishment of cutting the hands of the other thieves.

The authors of the amendment did not take into account the fact, that criminals do not consider the punishments and other regulations of the penal code before committing the crime. In the vast majority criminals think that they avoid punishment.

There is no scientific evidence that the tightening of penalties translates into a decrease in crime. Nowadays the goal of criminal policy is to compensate the harm, not to put the criminal in the prison. Moreover, it is vital for the punishment to be inevitable and executed rapidly.

The crime rate has been falling in recent years, which means the previous regulations have been successful.

The amended Penal Code introduces the possibility to rule a life sentence without the right to conditional release.

This is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Constitution. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly stated that such punishment violates the prohibition of torture and inhuman, degrading treatment. On March 13, 2019 ECHR reminded this in the Petukhov v. Ukraine judgement.

If the Polish court rules such a penalty, one can be sure that once the case goes to ECHR Poland will be to pay compensation. This punishment is also contrary to the Polish regulations on the application of the European Arrest Warrant which state that Poland may refuse to surrender the suspect to a state in which there is a life sentence without the possibility of conditional release.

The way of introducing the amendments raises doubts as well. The Legislator, while shaping the penal policy, should take into account solutions developed by judicial jurisprudence and theoreticians of law. Amendments in the codes, especially so wide, should be discussed among lawyers within the so-called deliberation, sociological research should also be carried out. It was not like this in the case of the discussed amendment.

Altogether, the amendment was created in the atmosphere of mystery and has become a surprise for all of us.