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The Warsaw Voice » Law » January 27, 2011
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Law in brief
January 27, 2011   
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Prison Terms for Stalkers
Those found guilty of stalking, or persistent harassment, will face prison under a new piece of legislation designed to amend the Penal Code. The legislation introduces a new type of crime that was recently submitted to the lower house of parliament.

Stalking is persistent, malicious and repeated harassment that may cause a sense of insecurity to the victim. This includes harassment in the form of repeated phone calls or text messages, following someone closely, but also showering them with gifts that he or she does not want to accept and has no way of returning.

Two new articles will be included in the Penal Code if the proposal gets the go-ahead from parliament. The first article prohibits stalkers from approaching specific people. The second regulates penalties for stalking.

Those using the image of other people or their data to cause personal harm to them or damage property are liable to three years in prison. If a person targeted by a stalker commits suicide, the perpetrator will face a prison term of two to 10 years.

Poland is not the only country that is drafting legislation to fight stalking. In all 50 U.S. states as well as in Canada, Australia and eight European countries—Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Britain and Italy—laws are already in place that protect people from stalking.

Tougher Penalties for Polluters
Those polluting the air, soil and water in connection with their business operations will face a prison term of up to eight years; if their actions are not deliberate, they may be sent to prison for up to three years, under a draft amendment to the Penal Code and several other legal acts approved by the government.

The plan to introduce tougher penalties for those polluting the environment is the result of a European Union directive that obligates member states, including Poland, to revise their national laws.

The maximum prison term of 12 years will be for those who cause someone’s death as a result of polluting water, soil or air with harmful substances. Those exposing other people to serious illness or injury by ignoring environmental protection requirements will be liable to up to 10 years in prison.

The purpose of the changes in law is to ensure more effective protection of the environment. The government believes that, with such sanctions, environmental protection regulations will be more effective than administrative fines.

E-Court Working Full Tilt
A court recently launched by the Polish Ministry of Justice in the eastern city of Lublin to deliver justice via the internet was asked to examine a total of 686,900 cases last year, its first year in business. The figure was twice as high as the ministry expected, chiefly due to companies supplying utilities such as electricity and telephone services, taking legal action against customers with outstanding bills.

The court has already examined 635,700 cases, settling 613,100 through the issuance of orders for payment. Only in 18,500 cases, or just 2.9 percent of the total number, have appeals been made against the court’s rulings, which means that almost all the verdicts have become final and repossession officers can now begin to collect the amounts in question.

The Ministry of Justice says the launch of the court was one of its biggest successes in 2010.

Better Personal Data Protection
The Office of the Inspector General for Personal Data Protection (GIODO) will gain new powers March 7. It will be able to mete out fines to those preventing or obstructing personal data protection inspectors from carrying out their duties. For individuals the maximum fine is zl.10,000. In the case of companies and institutions, the limit is zl.50,000. The Inspector General will also be able to request lawmakers to come up with new laws or amend existing ones to upgrade personal data protection.

Parliament Out of Bounds After Conviction
New regulations prohibiting individuals convicted of crimes from running for parliament are now in effect. Individuals seeking to run for parliament—at the stage of registration—must now submit a declaration that they have the right to stand, and specifically that they have not been convicted for an indictable offense subject to public prosecution. These also include Treasury offenses, as a result of a restriction added by the upper house, the Senate. The electoral commission will check with the National Criminal Register if the statement is true. If it turns out that the candidate is lying, the commission will refuse to register them.

Presidential contenders are subject to a similar procedure under the new rules.

No Work Permits Needed
Citizens of Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine can continue to work in Poland on the basis of statements issued by their employers. To take up employment in Poland they will not have to apply for a work permit. All they have to do is submit a statement from their employer to the District Labor Office that they will be offered employment. Thanks to this, they will find it easier to obtain a visa.

“This decision is particularly important in connection with the planned opening of the German labor market to Polish workers in May 2011,” said Krystian Bestry, vice-president of the Association of Business Service Leaders in Poland. “Our Western neighbors are already eyeing Polish professionals, encouraging them to come to work in Germany. Recruiting workers from Ukraine or Russia could thus help offset the possible outflow of work force from the Polish labor market.”

High-Speed Internet Access in New Buildings
Fiber optic cables will be installed in all new housing nationwide to provide residents with access to broadband internet and high-definition television and radio programs, under a piece of legislation being drafted by the Ministry of Infrastructure.

Under EU rules, all nationals of EU countries should have access to the internet by 2013. By 2020, EU citizens should have access to a network with a transfer speed of more than 30 Mbit/s. The existing telecommunications infrastructure in Poland does not ensure the attainment of these objectives, officials say.
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