Poland has announced plans to double jail terms for paedophiles after a documentary on priest sex abuse sparked outrage in the country.
Convicted paedophiles could now face a maximum sentence of 30 years. In the most serious cases, they could face life in prison.
The documentary includes harrowing testimonies from victims and has been viewed more than 18 million times.
The announcement comes ten days ahead of the European Parliament elections.
It will now go to the senate.
Poland’s Law and Justice government introduced the changes and said that the legal amendments had been in the works for months.
The right-wing party is closely aligned with the Catholic Church. It is currently running neck and neck with the European Coalition, a collective of opposition parties, in the forthcoming elections.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “A suspended sentence should not apply to the crime of paedophilia. It is our strong conviction and the government wants to implement this in the form of legislation.
“It is difficult to imagine a more serious offence than the betrayal of the trust of the youngest people, those placed under someone’s protection.
“Therefore, people, who are guardians in various institutions, including all secular and Church institutions, all such persons will have to bear even more severe penalties. This is also reflected in our proposals.”
- LGBT Virgin Mary triggers activist’s detention
- Pope Francis makes it mandatory for clergy to report sex abuse
The documentary “Only Don’t Tell Anyone” includes secret camera footage of victims confronting priests about their alleged abuse. Some of the priests admit to the abuse.
Police have prevented the documentary from being projected on to the façade of a church in Warsaw and also in Gdansk.
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has appointed a team of prosecutors to investigate the documentary, the National Public Prosecutor’s Office told thenews.pl site.
Bishops have been accused of not responding effectively to cases of abuse.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak, a senior leader of Poland’s Roman Catholic Church, apologised to the victims.
In March, the Polish Church admitted that almost 400 clergy had sexually abused minors over the past 30 years.