Poland: Government admits failure to investigate rape of man with intellectual disabilities

Peter* has intellectual disabilities and lives in Poland. Ten years ago he was 33, and one day came home from attending a day-care centre and told his mother that he had been raped by a therapist at the centre and that he had been beaten with a belt. They went to the police but investigators and judges had difficulty understanding Peter’s speech because of his disabilities. At court, Peter found it hard to explain what happened. The therapist was convicted of rape, but he appealed. The appeal court found Peter was not a credible witness and acquitted the therapist.

European Court of Human Rights. Photo: AFP/GettyEuropean Court of Human Rights. Photo: AFP/Getty

Peter felt he had not been listened to. He and his mother knew that justice had not been done. So in 2013 they appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. In 2015 MDAC sent information to the Court (a third party intervention) to help the Court understand the impact of disability on access to justice.

Last week, the Polish Government conceded that its courts did not properly take Peter’s testimony into account, and did not put in place the right supports for him as a victim of crime. The Government offered to pay 40,000 PLN (about 8,000 GBP) compensation to Peter.

Ann Campbell, MDAC Litigation Director, said: “We welcome the Polish Government’s admission that the country’s justice system failed this young man. Abuse and violence against people with disabilities can be reduced if victims are empowered and assisted to access the justice system. We call on the Government to adequately train prosecutors, investigators and judges to make sure that victims’ voices are taken seriously.”

MDAC is grateful to Dr Isabel Clare (Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist at the University of Cambridge) and Louise Price (Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, London) for their pro bono support in drafting aspects of the third party intervention. Doughty Street Chambers have also released this news bulletin on the case.

* Not his real name.


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