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.

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