The PGR’s mistake: the sins of the last paragraph that led to the prime minister’s dismissal

After several months of the political storm caused by the Public Ministry’s statement, it is time to analyze the goodness of the last paragraph in the light of our judicial system.

With the publication of the so-called “last paragraph of the note for social communications†we believe that the intention of the Public Ministry was linked to reasons of procedural transparency. The prosecutor’s office intended to demonstrate that it does not protect the strongest, even if it is the prime minister.

Remember the content of the last paragraph:
“During the course of the investigations, it emerged, moreover, that the suspects were aware of the Prime Minister’s name and authority and of his intervention to unblock procedures in the aforementioned context. . Such references will be independently analyzed within the scope of an investigation opened at the Supreme Court of Justice, as this is the competent forum.â€

In complex investigation processes, as a rule, judicial secrecy is in force, which aims not only to guarantee the effectiveness of the criminal investigation, but also to respect the principle of presumption. innocence of the suspect who finds himself exposed to value judgments in the media that harm, often irreversibly, his fundamental rights to honor and his own image. In this regard, This paragraph should never have been written and made public, as the good principles of criminal proceedings and, above all, the interests of the investigation and the suspect so imposed. The forensic practice of those who deal with this matter hardly understands that it is known that a suspect is being investigated.

Let’s see what happens in forensic practice. As a group of individuals is being investigated for committing various crimes, the police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office may understand – which often happens – that the criminal responsibility of one of these suspects should be investigated in a autonomous process, for reasons essentially of investigation strategy. In the specific case, it was understood that the competent entity for investigating the Prime Minister was the Supreme Court of Justice. In these cases, the Public Ministry extracts a certificate for the investigation to continue in a different process.

It is at this moment that the statement suffers from two mortal sins.

The first of them, tIf the suspect is aware that he is being investigated for the alleged commission of a crime, he will understandably take all measures to hide and deceive the evidence that are in their power. Now, the investigation methods that are highly effective in combating crime – searches, wiretapping and surveillance – are completely compromised. If the suspect is aware that a search will be carried out at his residence, this procedure loses all its effectiveness as it is likely that the suspect will get rid of the evidence that could incriminate him.

The second sin consists of informing the suspect, through a statement, of the means of evidence that exist against him.. Transmitting to the public the information that two of the suspects investigated and detained in a case invoked the name and authority of the Prime Minister to obtain illicit favors from him allows the suspects to react in order to coordinate versions and mislead these means of proof, for example, by planting artificial evidence.

It is already clear that the suspect’s knowledge of the existence of a criminal case against him and, above all, of the means of evidence used by the investigation, can destroy the entire investigation.

The application of these principles would avoid, moreover, the political storm that the communiqué caused insofar as its dissemination, in the eyes of the common citizen, exposed honor and honesty of those who exercise the highest functions of the Government of Portugal.


Francesco Giganti

Journalist, social media, blogger and pop culture obsessive in newshubpro

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