sábado, 8 de setembro de 2007

Portuguese law and Mccann affair

I found this in "The Sun" forum:
"I’m a Portuguese citizen. Incidentally, I am also a lawyer. While trying to remain unbiased, neutral and dispassionate, I thought it could be helpful to throw some light on: i) the allegation that PJ has offered a deal to Mss. McCann in exchange of a confession; and ii) the fact that no charges have been brought against Mr. and Mss. McCann For the sake of objectivity and neutrality, facts are in ALL CAPS, my opinion in normal caps, so that you can distinguish the text of the law from my views on the case. 1 – PJ HAS NOT LEGAL POWERS TO SETTLE OR OFFER DEALS WITH CRIME SUSPECTS. IN FACT, NOR EVEN THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR HAS SUCH POWERS. ONLY THE MAGISTRATE THAT JUDGES THE CASE IN A COURT OF LAW CAN DETERMINE THE PUNISHMENT /PENALTY APPLICABLE. I UNDERSTAND THIS TO BE QUITE DIFFERENT TO THE COMMON LAW JURISDICTIONS, NAMELY THE UK AND THE US. This is common knowledge in Portugal. One of the first things taught in law schools is that our criminal system is not like in the (American) movies. The police do not cut deals. Nor the Public Prosecutor has the power to offer deals and settle with suspects. Only the Judge can determine the penalty. It is actually quite common for the judge to deviate from the accusation and proposed penalty presented by the Public Prosecutor (for example, the Public Prosecutor charges someone with murder and asks for a 20 years jail penalty but the Judge, while finding the defendant guilty, condemns him/her to serve only 18 years). This is such a basic principle that no detective would try to pull this stunt with a lawyer present. 2 – ONLY THE CONFESSION MADE DURING A COURT HEARING IS LEGALLY VALID (SECTION 314 OF THE CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE). It seems unlikely that the PJ would push for a confession that it is not legally valid. Of course that a confession would be a huge breakthrough in the investigations as it would rule out other scenarios and allow the police and the Public Prosecutor to build a case, but if Mss. McCann later (i.e., during the court hearing) denies what she has confessed, the originally confession cannot be considered by the Judge. On a side note, this is why the questioning at the PJ is not recorded. Contrarily to what a British gentleman was saying this afternoon on SkyNews, the reason for not recording the interview is not archaism or lack of technical means – it is actually to protect the suspect against something he/she may later regret. 3 – PJ DOES NOT HAVE THE POWER TO CHARGE MR. AND MSS. MCCANN. THE PJ ROLE IS TO CONDUCT AN INQUIRY AND PUT TOGETHER THE FACTS. BASED ON THE FACTS GATHERED BY THE PJ, IT IS UP TO THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR TO CHARGE (OR NOT TO CHARGE) THE SUSPECTS. THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR HAS BETWEEN 6 AND 12 MONTHS (DEPENDING ON THE SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ALLEGED CRIME) FROM THE MOMENT ON WHICH THE SUSPECT IS NAMED “ARGUIDO” TO DECIDE IF IT PRESENTS OR DISMISS CHARGES – SECTION 276 OF THE CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE. It seems that the focuses being placed on the fact that no charges have been brought against Mr. and Mss. McCann is deliberately trying to pass the message that the evidence is weak. Well, I don’t know if the evidence is weak or strong. What I do know is that from a procedural point of view there could never be charges at this stage of the process. * Personal feelings now. I am trained to and effectively believe that anyone is innocent until proven guilty and I am therefore applying this principle to my personal assessment of this case. I also have no problems admitting ,not I feel ashamed or inferior to acknowledge, that the British police is technologically more advance that the Portuguese and probably more experienced – it is a matter of scale. What I would expect from a serious corporation such as SkyNews – on which I have relied on many different occasions for information – is neutral coverage of the story. I would expect SkyNews to investigate Portuguese law before giving any credibility to the hysteric reaction and false accusations made by the members of Mr. and Mss. McCann family. They went to the point of cutting the Portuguese lawyer out the air. The sister of Mr. McCann is lying. Such lye seems to be an attempt to make the PJ look desperate. Having been on the other side of PJ interviews many times before, I can assure that they never get desperate. As a lawyer, I found the gentlemen that commented on this case for SkyNews during the afternoon unprofessional and incompetent. As a man, I think they are plain i*****.

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