The Principle of Material Truth in the Light of the Adversarial Model of Criminal Proceedings

Article 2 paragraph 2 of the Polish Code of Criminal Procedure delineates the principle of material truth, recognized as an overarching principle of criminal proceedings. It is often claimed that this principle derives from the Polish Constitution, particularly from Article 2 and Article 7 (the principle of democratic rule of law) or Article 45 paragraph 1 (the right to a fair trial) and, consequently, had a status of constitutional rule. Nevertheless, such a view is disputable in the jurisprudence. The practical significance of this dispute underlies the discussion on an amendment to the Polish Code of Criminal Procedure (dated 27 September 2013). The core question, which the article seeks to provide an answer to, can be watered down to whether the legislature can interfere with the judges’ right (and duty) to accept and search for evidence as to establish material truth in a full adversarial trial, and whether such a reform could be kept within constitutional limits. Bearing in mind the essence of the principle according to which any decision (negative for the accused) must be based on objective findings, its functioning in the full adversarial system shall not be ignored.

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