The Public Prosecution Service is responsible for defending collective and diffuse interests that are legally recognized interests of an indeterminate and indeterminable number of people related to goods incapable of exclusive appropriation. Interests that are basically public in nature.
Those interests are, for example, the right to health; the right to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment which comprises pollution prevention, creation of nature reserves and parks, as well as of recreational areas, and promotion of environmental education and respect for environmental values; the right to decent and adequate housing and land management and planning designed to serve the purposes of public planning; the right to leisure and cultural creation as well as to a preserved and protected cultural heritage; the consumers’ right to the quality of the goods and services consumed, to training and information, to the protection of freedom of contract as well as of the interests of the weakest contracting party with a view to tackling the abuse of economic power and protecting the consumer.
In order to protect those constitutionally protected values and goods, the Public Prosecution Service can legitimately bring actions before the courts and intervene in actions brought by third parties.
The Public Prosecution Service may even act as a substitute for the person who commences a certain actio popularis [an action for the protection of a collective interest], when he/she drops the action or decides to reach a settlement or adopts any behaviour detrimental to the interests at stake.
The offences against such collective and diffuse interests may be serious enough to be treated as a crime. This is the case:
- Where the right to health is violated due to the offences of adulterating food or medicinal products, spreading an infectious disease and posing a risk to the life or physical integrity of others by altering laboratory test results or prescriptions;
- In the event of the offence of damaging nature, pollution and fire;
- Where land management and planning offences have been committed;
- In the event of theft and damage to goods of scientific, artistic and historical value, as well as to cultural heritage goods.
In those cases, where offences of a public nature are at issue, the Public Prosecution Service, acting in its capacity as the prosecuting authority and guided solely by the principles of lawfulness, objectivity and fairness, decides to institute criminal proceedings and conducts the inquiry by collecting evidence to prove the offence and the identity of the offenders.
Please contact your local Public Prosecution Service
A true case
The Movimento de Cidadãos por Aveiro [Citizen Movement for Aveiro] informed the Public Prosecution Service about that city’s municipality project to build a pedestrian bridge and its access ramps, over the central channel of the ria. In its information, that Citizen Movement presented several arguments against this project.
The Public Prosecution Service was insistent in asking for all the elements available (deliberations, applications and documents attached to the file in question), but the municipality of Aveiro refuted all charges related to the alleged offences committed in the performance of official duties that were reported to the Public Prosecution Service.
The Public Prosecution Service confronted the municipality with the possibility of the proposed project having violated the structure plan and its regulation and, in the end the bridge project was publicly dropped by the municipality.
The Public Prosecution Service preventive action brought an end to a project which didn’t respect the pre-existing site and would have caused severe damage to the landscaping, as the bridge was extremely dense, intrusive and deeply inadequate for the said landscape, thus impacting significantly on that same landscape.