President Andrzej Duda has been criticized for lifting a restraining order for a man convicted of a sex offence against a minor, but he did so on request of the family involved and the offender had served the prison sentence for his crime.
In March of this year President Duda granted a pardon lifting a restraining order on petition of the victim. The sexual offence, for which the perpetrator had been convicted and for which he served his prison sentence, had occurred within the family.
Over a decade ago, the father began struggling with alcoholism. When drunk, he became violent towards his partner and began to abuse their daughter. He was reported to the police, convicted, spent some years in prison and went through therapy.
The family appealed to the President to lift the restraining order as it was interfering in their lives. The mother and daughter started repeatedly filing appeals for a pardon and the courts have been processing them since 2018. They, the mother and daughter argued that the restraining order was no longer a means of protection, but rather a form of repression as the victim (now an adult) and the perpetrator currently live in one house anyway.
“The president, in taking the decision, was mindful of rational and practical considerations, as well as the fact that the convict had made amends with the victims and had served his debt to society for the crime he had committed,” stated the President’s Chancellery. The President himself commenting on Twitter added that his action had the support of the Prosecutor General.
In response to press headlines claiming that the President had pardoned a paedophile Presidential aide Paweł Mucha appealed to the media to stop spreading “fake news”. “Many years have passed since the crime was committed” and “the president has taken the side of the victims”, stated Mucha.
But a prominent opposition Civic Platform (PO) MP Barbara Nowacka criticized the President arguing that he had failed to take into account the possibility that the victim of sexual violence was suffering from “Stockholm syndrome”. She also asserted that “such offences (sex crimes-ed.) are unforgivable.
Others, such as criminal law expert Monika Płatek argue that the President’s decision was fully justified in taking his decision as the perpetrator has the right to return to society after serving his sentence, especially in the light of the family itself requesting such a course of action.
There is nothing wrong with debating the President’s power of pardon. It is a significant power of mercy which has to come under public scrutiny. But sensationalising a family matter to impact on the course of the presidential election and attempting to present the President as taking sides with paedophiles is out of order.
It is, and is meant to be, a discretionary power to right possible injustice. The President used it to pardon a minister in the present government when he felt that an injustice had been done over the way the courts treated the minister’s (Mariusz Kamiński- ed.) attempt to combat corruption. He has also used it to pardon city activist Jan Śpiewak convicted of a criminal charge of slander against a lawyer embroiled in the restitution saga in Warsaw.
The above were cases where the President actually overturned court decisions. This is not so in the case of the sexual offender that has raised so many press headlines. The man served his sentence and the President was not pardoning him for those offences. Answering a petition from the family he simply lifted a restraining order which the former victims of abuse do not feel to be necessary.
Since the aim of the penal system is reform of the offender it seems churlish to then claim, as Barbara Nowacka did, that these offences are unforgivable even after the sentence has been served.
The President has decided to trust the opinion of the family. After a very painful experience that family is trying to move on. The law has done its job in protecting that family by punishing the offender. But now that the sentence has been served and the victims and the offender want reconciliation there seems to be no logical argument against.