Ministério Público - O que é?
What is
the Public
Prosecution Service

The Public Prosecution Service is a body within the system of administration of justice and part of the judicial branch of the State.

It constitutes a magistracy similar to that of the judiciary, but separate from and independent of it. Like the judges, public prosecutors are magistrates. They must, at all times, act with objectivity, fairness and in full accordance with the law. Public prosecutors start working as a procurador-adjunto (deputy public prosecutor) [bottom] and then they may progress to procurador da República (public prosecutor) and, finally, to procurador-geral adjunto (deputy prosecutor general) [top].

The Public Prosecution Service is an institution whose purpose is to guarantee the right to equality and equality before the law, as well as the full compliance with the laws according to the democratic principles.
The Constitution of the Portuguese Republic and the law confer on public prosecutors many functions, such as institute and take over the conduct of criminal proceedings, conduct criminal investigations, participate in the implementation of the criminal policy, represent the State, defend the democratic lawfulness, protect the rights and interests of children and young people, secure legal representation for employees and their families in cases involving the protection of their social rights, defend collective and diffuse interests, defend the courts’ independence and make sure that the judicial function is discharged in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.

The Public Prosecution Service is independent from the other legislative, executive and judicial powers, at local, regional and central authority level.

Within the Public Prosecution Service public prosecutors are autonomous too. They are bound by criteria of lawfulness and objectivity and must only follow the directives, orders and instructions laid down by the statute of the Public Prosecution Service and that are in accordance with the law.

The Public Prosecution Service constitutes a hierarchically organized magistracy, a fact that isn’t incompatible with the prosecutors’ autonomy. The Public Prosecution Service is hierarchically structured, but its hierarchy of authority is exclusively internal. For public prosecutors it consists in reporting to their superiors in any given case, in accordance with the terms specified in the statute, and, consequently, in having to follow the directives, orders and instructions they have received.

Public prosecutors may ask their superior to put the order or instruction in writing. Whenever the order or instruction is deemed to take effect in a particular case, it must always be in writing.

Public prosecutors must refuse to follow illegal directives, orders and instructions and they can do it on grounds of serious violation of their legal consciousness.

The Prosecutor General’s Office is the highest governing body of the Public Prosecution Service and is headed by the Prosecutor-General.

The structure of the Prosecutor General’s Office comprises the Prosecutor-General, the High Council of the Public Prosecution Service, the Consultative Council of the Prosecutor General’s Office, legal auditors, as well as of technical and administrative support services. The Departamento Central de Investigação e Acção Penal (DCIAP) [Central Department of Investigation and Prosecution], the Gabinete de Documentação e Direito Comparado (GDDC) [Documentation and Comparative Law Office] and the Núcleo de Assessoria Técnica (NAT) [Technical Advice and Support Unit] operate under the superintendence of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The Public Prosecution Service is superintended by the Prosecutor General’s Office and operates from four District Prosecutor General’s Offices located in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra and Évora, as well as from one Public Prosecutor’s Office in each of the twenty three comarcas (judicial regions).

The Public Prosecution Service is a magistracy that acts at its own initiative and enjoys judicial independence. It is a public authority, a part of the judiciary and thus it is a judicial authority.

The Public Prosecution Service is neither a public administration body, nor is it an executive, legislative or political organ of power; and although forming part of the court, it is neither the judge, nor the court; finally, it isn’t the State’s lawyer.

Find out more about the history of the Portuguese Public Prosecution Service by reading the book Em nome do povo (On behalf of the people), pages 35-79, written by José Narciso CUNHA RODRIGUES.

Contact details for the Prosecutor General’s Office:

Rua da Escola Politécnica, 140 – 1269-269 Lisboa – Portugal

Tel: 21 392 19 00 * Fax: 21 397 52 55

E-mail: (Please do not use this address to lodge complaints, report public crimes or other offences committed in the performance of official duties)

Contact details for your local Public Prosecution Service: