On 15 May 2017, Mark Smith attended the the English-Polish Law Day conference in Warsaw. Mark gives an overview of the conference highlights.
On Monday 15 May 2017, lawyers from across Poland, England and Wales shunned the courts, offices and interview rooms that they might otherwise have frequented, and gathered in Warsaw to share views, thoughts and experiences on a number of current legal issues affecting our nations. There was much to compare and contrast in an agenda of legal topics including a variety of criminal and family issues that increasingly overlap across the two jurisdictions.
The morning sessions addressed the quasi-criminal programme of asset recovery and extradition, both having cross-border relevance in the form of Mutual Legal Assistance and the European Arrest Warrant. The afternoon sessions then looked at family matrimonial matters and the cross-border movement of children.
First, having been taken on a whistle-stop tour of the UK approach to proceeds of crime by Barnaby Hone and Fiona Jackson, Janusz Tomczak asked why the international tools for asset recovery are not used more widely, and Katarzyna Randzio–Sajkowska led us through the new Polish regulations that parallel POCA 2002. Our Polish colleagues were shocked at the draconian nature of their new provisions, and so discussion of Waya and proportionality was high on the agenda.
The focus then shifted to extradition, with Urszula Podhalanska and Katarzyna Wisniewska providing the Polish view, and Ben Cooper and Laura Herbert explaining the approach to EAWs in the UK and addressing the possibilities for extradition post-Brexit. It is fair to say that there was heated debate on the recent introduction of a section 12A bar into the Extradition Act by the UK government. But the Dean of the Warsaw Bar, Mikolaj Pietrzak, eloquently pointed out the need for close scrutiny of EAWs by the executing state, not least to balance the one-sided, ex parte hearing where the EAW is issued in the requesting state.
After lunch, the baton was handed to the family lawyers. Ann Hussey QC elucidated the British system of division of assets upon divorce, and Karolina Bodnar and Jacek Wiercinski the Polish alternative. Most of the Polish lawyers were shocked at the range of financial remedies available to the UK courts; their UK counterparts were similarly aghast at the dearth of remedies available in Poland. Thankfully, Sarah Lucy Cooper made clear that any eligible Poles, dissatisfied with their decision in Poland, can have a second bite at the cherry before the UK courts under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.
Finally, the attention turned to the emotive topics of child abduction and child relocation. Psychologist, Maria Keller-Hamela from the Empowering Children Foundation made an impassioned plea for the lawyers in such cases to put the children first, a view roundly echoed by the other speakers, Soraya Pascoe and Kamila Zagorska from the Polish Ministry of Justice.
Before the day came to a close, there was just time for a short cameo from the British ambassador to Poland, who encouraged us about the growing links between the two countries, and was pleased to hear of plans for a second English-Polish Law Day in the UK – next time to be conducted in Polish, perhaps!