Civil trial starts in case brought by paedophile priest victim

Marcin K. has filed a lawsuit against Zbigniew R., the Kołobrzeg-Koszalin Diocese and St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Parish. He requests an apology in the national edition of the Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper and Newsweek magazine, and PLN 200,000 as compensation for moral damages caused by a priest’s sexual abuse. The first hearing in the case of Marcin K. was held in the Regional Court in Koszalin.

For several months Marcin K., then aged 12, was molested by the parish priest Zbigniew R. In December 2012 the priest was convicted with a final court judgment.  R. is currently serving a two-year prison term.

In October 2013, a conciliatory hearing took place before the District Court in Koszalin. During the conciliatory hearing, the attorney for the Parish claimed he did not see any grounds to hold Church authorities responsible for the acts committed by the former parish priest. Counsel for Zbigniew R. said, on his part, that a settlement would be unreasonable at the current stage of the proceedings.

Responding to the statement of claims, lawyers representing the Kołobrzeg-Koszalin Diocese and St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Parish moved the court to dismiss the case. They repeated the arguments brought during the conciliatory hearing, asserting that their clients cannot be held liable for the priest’s conduct. Attorney for Zbigniew R. asked the court to dismiss claims for compensation in excess of two thousand zloty. He argued that given his client’s current situation, Zbigniew R. was unable to pay any larger amount.

At the hearing both the claimant and the defendants confirmed their statements expressed in pre-trial submissions. The court dismissed a motion of Zbigniew R.’s counsel who requested a closed hearing. Two witnesses were heard at the hearing: Marcin K.’s mother and a journalist who had reportedly notified the authorities of the Koszalin-Kołobrzeg Diocese of Zbigniew R. molesting another minor, in January of 2006 or 2007.

The court set another trial date for 12 September 2014. During this next hearing, Archbishops Marian Gołębiewski and Kazimierz Nycz will testify via a video link. They both had been serving as Bishops of the Koszalin-Kołobrzeg Diocese.

Mr Wojciech Dobkowski represents Marcin K. pro bono. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has been observing the case.

“This trial is undoubtedly of a precedent nature. The cases of the majority of victims of paedophilia within the Church usually do not end with final sentences or the victims are unable to seek justice due to expiration of time-limits for prosecution”, says Dr Adam Bodnar, Deputy Chair of the HFHR Board.

Latest

June 18, 2021

As Belarus’s human rights crisis deepens, the UN Special Rapporteur for Belarus is more important than ever

In a joint statement, Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) and more than 30 Belarusian and international human rights organisations call on UN Human Rights Council member States to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus during the Council’s upcoming 47th session.

June 18, 2021

Armenian authorities must support and end harassment against human rights defenders

In a joint statement led by Human Rights House Yerevan and its member organisations, Human Rights House Foundation and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee urge the Armenian authorities to end harassment against human rights defenders and protect their legitimate human rights work.

June 14, 2021

HRC47: Media Under Attack in Belarus

The human rights crisis in Belarus has intensified. At the start of the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, with both Belarus and freedom of opinion and expression on the Council’s agenda, this online event will update states on the recent deterioration and identify further concrete action to protect human rights in Belarus.