Some types of behaviour violate so seriously the persons’ rights or the fundamental values of the rule of law, which in turn is based on the dignity of the human person, that those who adopt such behaviours may be punished.
The law stipulates those types of behaviour and their corresponding penalties: they are labelled as crime.
The law also establishes the rules governing the investigation of criminal offences as well as the prosecution of the offenders (criminal proceedings).
Within the framework of the criminal proceedings, in addition to other functions, the Public Prosecution Service:
Conducts the inquiry in its procedural stage which is designed to gather evidence to prove the offence and the identity of the offenders (the first stage of the proceedings). The Public Prosecution Service collects all evidence, whether it is favourable or unfavourable to the suspects. In carrying out this activity it is assisted by the criminal police forces, which perform their duties under its direction and control.
Deals with the complaints, as well as with the public crimes or other offences committed in the performance of official duties that citizens in general, and crime victims in particular, have lodged with it and reported to it directly or through the criminal police forces.
Asks the investigating judge to apply coercive preventive measures against the defendants in one or more of the following situations: where there is a risk of the defendant fleeing, interfering with the inquiry, committing further criminal offences or being a serious threat to public order as well as to public peace and tranquillity. The purpose of the coercive preventive measures is to prevent the occurrence of those risks.
Proceeds with a prosecution and makes its case in trial, if sufficient evidence has been assembled to prove the offence and the identity of the offender. But if the evidence presented during the trial does not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence, the Public Prosecution Service asks the court to acquit him/her.
Appeals against judicial decisions made in the case, even if in the sole interest of the defendants, whenever their enforcement might violate the law.
Promotes the enforcement of all sentences and security measures imposed on convicted defendants.
Public prosecutors are always bound by criteria of lawfulness (always in compliance with the law) and objectivity (their sole purpose is always to seek the truth, whether it is favourable or unfavourable to the offended parties or to the persons suspected of committing crimes).
The inquiries are carried out by the Departamento Central de Investigação e Acção Penal [Central Department of Investigation and Prosecution] or the Departments of Investigation and Prosecution.
- Conducts the inquiry;
- Supervises the police activity;
- Promotes the implementation of the crime victims’ rights;
- Supervises the judicial decisions;
- Promotes law enforcement objectively by acting in favour of all citizens involved in criminal proceedings, in particular crime victims, but also the defendants themselves, whenever their rights are challenged;
- Is no public accuser;
- Is neither the police nor the judge;
- Is not the State’s lawyer.
In order to institute criminal proceedings, the Public Prosecution Service needs to know that an offence has been committed. It may find out about it on its own, through the criminal police forces or upon crime reporting.
Any citizen who has information about a crime can report it to the Public Prosecution Service or to the criminal police forces.
Any citizen who has been the victim of a crime can lodge a complaint with the Public Prosecution Service or the criminal police forces.
— The Departments of Investigation and Prosecution within the Public Prosecution Service —
— Any criminal police force, such as the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP) [Public Security Police], the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) [National Republican Guard] or the Polícia Judiciária (PJ) [Criminal Police].
Certain categories of crime can be reported online by submitting a crime complaint at https://queixaselectronicas.mai.gov.pt/
If you want to report corruption, you can also use the online crime reporting service of the Prosecutor General’s Office (https://simp.pgr.pt/dciap/denuncias/).
Many non-governmental organisations offer support to victims of crime, like, for example, the Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima (APAV) [Portuguese Victim Support Association] that provides detailed information at www.infovitimas.pt and has gabinetes de apoio [support offices] around the country.
Each year, the Public Prosecution Service opens around 550.000 inquiries into so different crimes, ranging from the simplest to the more complex crime, from small neighbourhood problems to more sophisticated financial crimes.
In recent years the number of inquiries that the Public Prosecution Service has ended is always greater than the number of those it has opened. Some inquiries are swift, but others take longer due to the complexity of the facts and the difficulty in obtaining evidence. The inquiries take in average around six months.
Nearly 75% of all inquiries are closed. There are several reasons for closing them, but the most common reasons are: no crime was committed (evidence has been collected that proves that no crime has been committed), withdrawal of the complaint by the offended party (where the withdrawal is admissible, it will stop the criminal case from progressing) and evidence proved inconclusive (a prosecution shall only proceed where there is compelling and objective evidence that a crime has been committed and of the offender’s identity, and there is a significant prospect of conviction; if there is no evidence or if it is not so compelling, the inquiry should be closed).
A conviction is got in nearly 85% of the cases reaching trial. Every year around 80.000 persons are convicted of the crimes they have committed.