A campaign is being launched in the media to raise awareness of support for people who have been victimised by crime. The assistance is provided by the Justice Fund.
“The home must be a safe place. Protection for victims of violence should be immediate and effective. We have prepared an anti-violence law that ensures this. We help the aggrieved,” emphasises the Minister of Justice, Attorney General Zbigniew Ziobro.
People experiencing domestic violence can count on professional legal advice, psychological support and help with livelihoods. An immediate response is provided by the Helpline for Victims: 222 309 900. The helpline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Assistance can also be provided anonymously. There are help points in almost every district. Since the Anti-Violence Act came into force, over 25,500 people affected by domestic violence have benefited from the support of Justice Fund facilities! This amounts to over 132,500 hours of legal aid and 150,600 hours of psychological aid.
All the information you need, including addresses and contacts to centres throughout Poland, is available on the website with an interactive map: https://www.funduszsprawiedliwosci.gov.pl/en/.
For years, Poland was a country where late and ineffective help was provided to women and children in cases of domestic violence. But this is now a thing of the past. We have joined countries with the highest standard of protection for victims of this type of crime.
The Ministry of Justice under the United Right did what other groups only talked about. An anti-violence law has been in force in Poland for two years. A person who uses physical violence, posing a threat to the life or health of the household members, must leave the flat immediately. He or she will also receive a restraining order.
Before the entry into force of the law, victims waited for a court ruling, as it was the only one that allowed them to get rid of the perpetrator of violence from their home – on average as many as 143 days. Today, sanctions are immediately enforced by the police and all reports of violence are treated as urgent. The average waiting time for a patrol to arrive is 7-15 minutes. After about an hour, the violent offender leaves the home.
These are groundbreaking changes in the law that will protect victims of domestic violence. As a result, it is not the victims who have to flee the flat, but it is the perpetrators who are forced to leave.
Even more protection
This is not the end of the introduction of laws protecting women. The Anti-Violence Act 2.0 provides new powers for the police and military police:
- a prohibition on the offender to approach the person affected by the violence at a specific distance set in metres,
- a prohibition on contacting the person both in person and from a distance, e.g. by text message or e-mail,
- an order prohibiting access to the workplace, school premises or other similar establishments attended by the person subject to domestic violence.
These prohibitions can also be ordered by a civil court. It will be able to issue a contact ban when there is so-called stalking.
Tougher penalties for rape
The protection of the rights of children and women is also served by fundamental changes to the Criminal Code, prepared by the Ministry of Justice. These will come into force on 1 October 2023.
A penalty of 5 to 30 years in prison or life imprisonment will be imposed for rape with particular cruelty (today up to 15 years in prison).
Rape with the consequence of grievous bodily harm will be punishable by 5 to 30 years in prison or life imprisonment (currently 2 to 12 years).
Rape with consequent death of the victim will be punishable by 8 to 30 years in prison or life imprisonment (currently 2 to 12 years in prison).
The legislation includes new qualified types of rape, e.g. on a pregnant woman, with the use of firearms or video and audio recordings of the act. Currently, these acts are punishable by 2 to 12 years imprisonment and will be punishable by 3 to 20 years imprisonment.
Sex offenders – repeat offenders – will be subject to an extraordinary increase in punishment.
Effective enforcement of alimony
The regulations developed at the Ministry of Justice in 2017 ended impunity for those who avoided paying the maintenance due to their own children.
Previously, they were practically threatened with nothing, as there was a vague provision in the regulations about ‘persistent evasion of alimony’. It was enough to occasionally pay a small amount (e.g. PLN 50 once a month) to avoid responsibility.
The new provision introduced a clear and objective rule – whose alimony arrears are equivalent to the equivalent of three-monthly instalments can go to prison for a year. This has had spectacular results.
The collectability of alimony payments to the State Alimony Fund has increased by more than 280 per cent. As recently as 2015, it was 13 per cent, and by 2021 it had reached 49.8 per cent. This means that debtors are scared of the new rule and not only pay those entitled to alimony but also repay the debt to the Fund that ‘credited’ them.
The new legislation has given mothers awaiting alimony a much greater opportunity to assert their rights. The effectiveness of the collection of maintenance payments by bailiffs has also increased. In 2020, it reached a record high of more than 20 per cent.
A continuation of these measures is the bill introducing immediate alimony.
They are to be awarded within a dozen or so days in prescriptive maintenance proceedings. Obtaining alimony will be possible by simplifying the formalities as much as possible.
Alimony applicants will be able to file a claim on a ready-made form available online. Apart from a copy of the child’s birth certificate, no evidence will be attached to the claim, only statements.
The amount of immediate alimony will depend on the minimum wage and the number of children in the family, and this will allow the benefit to be determined precisely. The amount will be valorised each time the minimum wage changes.
The new institution guarantees the welfare of the child – it gives the child a choice between the current way of claiming alimony and immediate alimony.