Barbara W. was charged by the Prosecutor for insulting Mieczysław W. by posting on 30 June 2005 comments regarding his peron such “erotomaniac” on a website ocen.pl that is used to evaluate academics by their students. The charges were based on the provisions of Article 212 of the Criminal Code – CRC – (in Polish: Kodeks Karny) of 6 June 1997, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 88, item 553, with subsequent amendments.
Offences against Honour and Personal Inviolability
§ 1. Whoever imputes to another person, a group of persons, an institution or organisational unit not having the status of a legal person, such conduct, or characteristics that may discredit them in the face of public opinion or result in a loss of confidence necessary for a given position, occupation or type to
shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to one year.
§ 2. If the perpetrator commits the act specified in § 1 through the mass media
shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to 2 years.
The case went through all instances. The Supreme Court in its order of 7 May 2008 case file III KK 234/7 dismissed the cassation filed by Mieczysław W. and ruled that the provisions of Article 216 of the CRC should be invoked in this case, instead of Article 212 of the CRC.
§ 1. Whoever insults another person in his presence, or though in his absence but in public, or with the intention that the insult shall reach such a person,
shall be subject to a fine or the penalty of restriction of liberty .
§ 2. Whoever insults another person using the mass media,
shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of
deprivation of liberty for up to one year.
The Court ruled that the Internet is a medium of communication, as provided for in Articles 212 § 2 and 216 § 2 of the CRC, by means of which the offender may commit both defamation and insult. However, it was impossible in the current state of the law to rule that the mere provision of a computer to a third party decides on the criminal responsibility of its owner, in case if turned out that a person using such computer would be guilty of the offense. The Court held also that freedom of the press and other mass media that is guaranteed in the Article 14 of the Constitution, should also include media, as referred to in Article 216 § 2 and 212 § 2 of the CRC.