Portugal // 5 000 offenders pay to clean up their domestic violence records

Pixelated black and white picture of detainee with a black stripe covering his eyes.

 

Initially published on 2017/04/04, this article has been republished on the site for its continued relevance.

More than five thousand domestic offenders, with proven or assumed guilt, have been exempted from going to trial and from serving a prison sentence between 2015 and 2017. At issue is the application by prosecutors of the Public Ministry of a provisional suspension of the process. Doing so clears the record of the accused person as long as the so-called injunction is complied with. This can either involve the payment of a sum to the State or to a welfare institution; a payment to the victim as compensation or just the “punishment” of attending a program or a specific treatment.

This simplified procedure applies to defendants whose guilt is proven, who are bound only to comply with the so-called injunction (a fine in most cases). In reality, what happens thanks to this expedient is that the condemned won’t have their criminal background registered.

In 2014 through Directive No. l / 2014, Joana Marques Vidal (a magistrate) recommended that this legal mechanism be used more often in cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse of minors “not aggravated by the result”. The Attorney General wants more and more cases to be subject to “provisional suspension of proceedings”. The measure, which would relieve the courts of some work, has resulted in guilty people being left without record, even in cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

In 2010, a memo from a former Attorney General Pinto Monteiro alerted magistrates to the need for a greater application of the measure. In 2011, the District Attorney’s Office of Lisbon initiated an action plan to expedite the use of this Justice measure. Out of the total number of cases filed with the Public Ministry, 60% were set to apply a provisional suspension of the process.

From June to October 2012 alone, the State earned 54 million euros from fines resulting from the resolution of cases that did not even reach court.

In total, 73 655 suspensions were applied from 2015 to 2016: 19 863 for the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol and 8 804 for driving without a license. Domestic violence follow soon after with 5 030 cases.

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