3. State Party Reports
[Parts of State party report relating specifically to relevant legal minimum ages, and articles 37 and 40]
II. DEFINITION OF THE CHILD
25. Polish legislation does not define the term "the child". In the legislation various terms are used, such as "conceived child", "the child", "juvenile", "minor", "young person". However, we may state that the general scope of expression "the child" determined in the Convention corresponds to the scope of this term accepted in Polish law.
26. The above-mentioned terms mean:
29. Majority is attained by a person who has reached the age of 18 years (art. 10 of the Civil Code). Majority is also attained by a woman who has reached the age of 16 years if she has entered into marriage with the consent of a family and guardianship court (art. 10 of the Family and Guardianship Code). In accordance with article 92 of the Family and Guardianship Code, the child remains under parental authority until he/she attains majority.
40. Generally, legal provisions concerning criminal and civil procedure do not specify an age for giving testimony. In divorce cases and cases of nullification of a marriage or deciding on the existence or non-existence of a marriage, minors under 13 years of age and descendants of parties under 17 years of age may not give testimony.
41. A person who has reached the age of 17 years may be subject to criminal liability. However, a minor who after reaching the age of 16 years commits a crime against life, a crime of rape, robbery or a crime against public safety or who deliberately induces grave bodily injury or grave damage to health may be subject to criminal liability on the same basis as adults. These age limits also apply to detention awaiting trial or deprivation of liberty. Nevertheless, in certain circumstances, a court may order educational or reformatory measures against a person who has committed an offence after reaching the age of 17 years but before the age of 18 years, instead of a penal sanction.
IV. CIVIL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
83. The Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits in article 37 inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of children. Polish law does not contain any direct provision on the prohibition of beating children, but article 184 of the Penal Code concerning cruelty with regard to family also refers to cruelty with regard to minors: "Everyone who subjects to physical or moral cruelty his/her family member or other person permanently or temporarily dependent on the perpetrator or who subjects to cruelty the minor, is subject to punishment ...". The Family and Guardianship Code does not contain any provision prohibiting corporal punishment. At the same time, some indirect data and scarce research studies indicate that the problem of maltreatment of children emerges in all social environments (however, no statistics or evidence are available). Prevention of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of children is not favoured by the lack of a well-organized system of special services aimed at preventive activity, casual aid and therapy for children and adults.
VIII. SPECIAL PROTECTION MEASURES
Children in conflict with the law
274. A separate part of the Polish legal system concerns procedure in cases of juveniles showing signs of misbehaviour or who committed a punishable act: the Law of 26 October 1982 concerning procedure in juvenile cases, which entered into force on 13 May 1983. A juvenile who has committed a criminal offence after reaching the age of 13 years and before attaining the age of 17 years may be subject to penal proceedings.
275. It is a general principle that such proceedings are carried out before a special court - family court. All actions in these proceedings (such as hearing of a juvenile and witnesses) are taken by a family judge, who may only request certain actions of the police or a court guardian (art. 35). In these proceedings a juvenile has the right to a defender (arts. 36 and 49). A court is obliged to provide not only the parents or a guardian of a juvenile but also a juvenile above 13 years of age himself/herself with copies of all decisions taken in these proceedings. The juvenile who has been convicted of a criminal offence cannot be subject to punishment: only educational or reformatory measures are allowed (art. 5).
276. The guiding principle in all proceedings is the well-being of a juvenile, understood as introduction of favourable changes to his/her personality and behaviour which would allow for his/her correct development and functioning in personal and social life. For this reason, measures applied with regard to a juvenile have a preventive and educational character and they are not treated as repression.
277. The court may, inter alia, apply such measures as a reprimand, imposing on a juvenile an obligation of definite behaviour or supervision of a court guardian. It may also place a juvenile in an institution dealing with vocational preparation, in an educational establishment and - in strictly specified situations - in a medical institution. The court may place a juvenile in a reformatory if there has been serious misbehaviour and the circumstances and character of the committed offence justify such a decision, particularly if educational measures applied earlier have not brought about the required effects. The parents or guardian and the juvenile himself/herself may appeal the court's decision on the application of educational or reformatory measures to a higher court.
278. In 1991, the courts handed down final decisions on the application of educational or reformatory measures in relation to 12,050 juveniles who committed criminal offences. Most often courts decide on educational measures to be applied in the juvenile's family environment (about 90 per cent). Among them the following should be mentioned: supervision by a court's guardian (in 1991 with regard to 5,045 juveniles); responsible supervision by parents (2,995 cases); reprimand (1,916 cases); 601 juveniles were placed in an educational institution and 882 juveniles were conditionally sentenced to reformatory while 405 juveniles were placed in a reformatory.
279. When deciding on application of a given educational or reformatory measure the court does not specify the period for which this measure is applied, because this period depends on the course of the resocialization process. Generally, educational measures are applied up to the moment a juvenile attains 18 years of age; a stay in a reformatory may even be prolonged to 21 years of age.
280. A person who has committed a criminal offence after reaching the age of 17 years may be subject to penal liability, for example to the penalty of deprivation of liberty. However, such a person is treated as a juvenile and thus is placed in a penal institution for juveniles. Polish legislation does not provide for corporal punishment or for life imprisonment. In exceptional circumstances capital punishment is admissible; however, it may not be applied with regard to a person who at the moment of a criminal offence has not reached the age of 18 years (art. 31 of the Penal Code).
[Further information in State party report relating to the administration of juvenile justice]
I. Information on legal acts in which the children's rights are contained
6. The Law on procedure in juvenile cases of 26 October 1982 contains material provisions, procedural regulations and provisions concerning educational, medical and reformative measures. Thus it covers the complex of problems connected with juvenile delinquency. It is generally in conformity with the recommendations of the Convention (for example arts. 37, 40); however, it has an even broader scope than the Convention because it deals not only with juvenile perpetrators of criminal acts but also with juvenile demoralization.
Source: Initial reports of States parties due in 1993: Poland, UN Doc. CRC/C/8/Add.11, paras. 6, 25-26, 29, 40-41, 83, 274-280 (31 January 1994)