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  • Activity areas

    The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) “represents the State, defends the interests prescribed by law, takes part in the enforcement of criminal policy as defined by the organs of sovereignty, carries out the prosecution according to the principle of legality, and defends the democratic legality, pursuant to the Constitution, to this Statute and to the law" [Article 219(1) of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic (CPR); articles 2 and 4 of the Statute of the Public Prosecution Service].

    Although generally identified with the tasks and powers exercised in the criminal field, the PPS’s polymorphic nature extends to the relevant functions assigned to it in the other jurisdictional areas, among which we underline:

    • Administrative Area

      The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) represents the State (either State-Administration or State-Collectivity) in cases where property and non-property interests are at stake and which the community or the public relate themselves with: public health, environment, town planning, territorial planning, quality of life, cultural heritage and State property, as well as Autonomous Regions and Local Authorities property.

      The PPS is thus entrusted with powers to represent the State, to defend legality, to oversee the values and property requiring special protection (such as particularly relevant public interests, citizens’ fundamental rights and diffuse and collective interests), being also granted with the possibility to intervene as main or ancillary «party».

      Even if it is not a party to the proceedings, the PPS intervenes in the capacity of justice body whenever property, interests and values are at stake, the defence of which it has the power/duty to ensure.

    • Cível Area

      It is particularly incumbent on the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) (i) to represent the State, the Autonomous Regions, the local authorities, the persons lacking legal capacity, the persons having no permanent residence and those whose whereabouts are unknown; (ii) to defend the collective and diffuse interests in the cases falling within the law; (iii) to uphold the independence of the courts within its powers and to insure that the jurisdictional duties are carried out pursuant to the Constitution and the laws applying thereto; (iv) to promote the enforcement of court decisions within its powers.

      Its intervention is always subordinated to the defence of the public interest, whether it acts in representation or based on its powers and own initiative.

      Compliance with its tasks and powers in the civil area causes the PPS to intervene actively in domains such as_

       proceedings regarding diffuse interests in order to protect the constitutionally enshrined rights embodied of public interest in matters of:

      — environment and public health: the PPS takes legal action with a view to hinder conducts affecting the citizens’ personality rights that are not comprised within the individual sphere (such as the right to rest and the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment).

      — legal relations between consumers and corporate bodies

       claim and/or enforcement proceedings concerning civil non-contractual liability issues  deriving from unlawful or lawful acts.

       proceedings in case of estate in abeyance: the PPS represents the State in the absence of heirs to private heritages, thus claiming the State ownership of the deceased’s entire estate.

       judicial authorisation proceedings: in the scope of the civil status registry and the land registry.

       proceedings regarding the legality of statutes of non-profit moral persons: the PPS must assess the lawfulness of the articles of incorporation and/or amendments to the articles of association, and investigate the corresponding rules.

       proceedings for nullity of freehold property incorporation deeds: the PPS must take legal action where the purpose given to the apartments is incompatible with the licences issued by the Town Council.

       debt recovery proceedings: the PPS takes legal civil action for recovery of any fees, expenses, costs, taxes, duties, emoluments and other burdens the payment of which the Applicants are exempted from by reason of legal aid. 

       follow-up actions: the PPS is competent to initiate proceedings in court with a view to protecting the dignity and rights of those citizens who are of legal age and find themselves in a dependent or especially vulnerable situation: this follow-up has replaced interdiction and disqualification.

       compulsory confinement actions: The PPS has the power to initiate proceedings for non-urgent compulsory confinement against any citizen with severe psychological impairment likely to cause a dangerous event of a personal or material nature affecting himself/herself or third persons, where the concerned citizen refuses to submit to the necessary medical treatment. 

    • Constitutional Area

      The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) powers at the Constitutional Court (CC) are exercised in five main areas:

        Specific monitoring of constitutionality and legality, being particularly responsible for_

      — lodging compulsory appeals before the CC against (i) decisions taken by courts of law that refuse to implement any rule based on unconstitutionality, illegality or violation of an international convention; (ii) decisions that apply a rule previously deemed unconstitutional or illegal by the CC.

      — submitting cases to the CC full bench (plenário) if case-law controversy is raised and the PPS intervenes in the proceedings either as Appellant or Respondent.

      Besides the compulsory appeal cases, the PPS has legitimacy to submit appeals to the CC, as any other intervening party, if the appeal admissibility conditions have been met.

        Abstract monitoring of constitutionality and legality:

      The PPS may decide to ask for a generally binding statement of unconstitutionality regarding rules previously deemed unconstitutional in three specific cases.

       Political parties and electoral campaigns:

      The PPS requests the sanctioning of political parties in case of failure to submit annual accounts and of candidates’ support structures in case of failure to submit candidacies accounts; furthermore, the PPS requests the imposition of administrative penalties and their enforcement if failure to pay occurs.

      The PPS is also entrusted with (i) the monitoring of political parties’ enrollment before the CC, the legality of the respective statutes and the constitutional conformity of names, symbols and abbreviations; (ii) the request for their revocation; (iii) the request that the destination of property to be allocated to the State be specified in the revoking decision.

       Statements of income, estate and social contributions of political and equivalent officeholders and of senior public officeholders

      In general, the PPS is entrusted with the analysis of all statements produced by the political and equivalent officeholders and by the senior public officeholders, with a view to identify any omission or inaccuracy. It is entrusted in particular with the annual monitoring of statements submitted after expiry of mandates or of terms of office.

        Incompatibilities and impediments of political officeholders

      If deemed necessary, the PPS requires further information with a view to determining whether there is any incompatibility or impediment in case of breach of law, it submits a request for disqualification to the CC.

    • Family and Minors Area

      The Public Prosecution Service intervenes in cases where a minor’s motherhood and/or fatherhood has not been established, case in which the PPS is entrusted with instituting proceedings of affiliation, preparing the case work and following up the case evolution.

      As regards the civil intervention, the PPS represents the minors and proposes actions for settlement of parental responsibilities and for alterations to previous settlements; it also submits cases of failure to comply with previous arrangements concerning domicile, due alimony or contacts/visits.

      Other areas of intervention are (i) minors alimonies, (ii) interdiction of or restriction to the exercise of parental responsibilities; (iii) guardianship; (iv) civil support. These interventions are generally implemented through the submission of injunctions and their follow-up in court.

      The PPS is also granted powers to decide upon (i) requests for judicial consent to perform acts that neither the minors’ parents nor their legal representatives are allowed to perform without due authorisation; (ii) requests for confirmation of acts done without the required authorisation.

      Furthermore, the PPS is entrusted with powers to request judicially the parents’ prior consent to adoption, the minor judicial trust in view of a future adoption. During the adoption process, the PPS must issue an opinion prior to the judgement.

      The current protection system for children and young people in danger grants the PPS powers to follow-up and to control the protection commissions’ activities, to assess legality and adequacy of their decisions and to request the implementation of the proper judicial procedures.

      It is also incumbent on the PPS to request to opening of the judicial procedures for promotion and protection, the evolution of which is followed up closely along all stages ‑ in particular the stage of enforcement of the measures ordered to the children’s benefit.

      As regards the educational sphere, should an act statutorily deemed a criminal offence be committed by a minor aged between 12 and 16, the PPS opens and directs the inquiry stage. At the very end of this stage, and if justifiable, it requests the opening of the jurisdictional stage, where the PPS points out the minor’s educational needs and purposes the guardianship measure believed to be appropriate. The PPS intervenes in trial session and follows up the enforcement of any ordered educational guardianship measure. 

    • Tax Area

      The members of the Public Prosecutions Service (PPS) are entrusted with powers to intervene in all judicial proceedings that are pending in the tax area.

      Considering the lack of structural equality between Tax Administration and taxpayers, the PPS intervention is particularly relevant for the implementation of the Rule of Law, the defence of legality and the safeguard of the principle of equality before the law.

      At first Instance level, before the final decision is rendered by the judge, the PPS (i) issues an opinion on all cases; (ii) intervenes, where necessary, in the defence of legality, the promotion of the public interest and the representation of persons lacking legal capacity, persons having no permanent residence and those whose whereabouts are unknown, in matters related to incidents covering costs and to administrative offences; (iii) lodges the administrative offence appeal, intervening in trial sessions and challenging or replying to appeals from the judicial decisions; (iv) intervenes in the appeals lodged before the Central Administrative Court (CAC) or the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC).

      At 2nd Instance level, the PPS (i) issues an opinion in every case, lodges appeals before the Constitutional Court, lodges reinstatement appeals before the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) and appeals for revision of judgements.

      At the SAC the PPS is basically entrusted with the issuing of opinions on the jurisdictional appeals, on conflicts of jurisdiction disputes and on conflicts of competence.

    • Labour Area

      As regards the labour jurisdiction, should the law so determine or the parties so request, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) represents ex-officio the workers and their families in view of the defence of their social rights.

      The representation is:

       gratuitous: free of any charges to the applicant; it is embodied of a public service nature made available to workers/families;

       general: all worker/families may benefit thereof upon request, regardless of their economic and social condition and of their nationality;

       inclusive: the workers/families are provided another access channel to the law and the courts, notwithstanding other alternatives at their disposal (judicial representation through a counsel for the defence or an appointed lawyer under the legal aid regime) and deprived of precedence over the other judicial representation channels.

      In order to provide an effective representation to workers/families, the PPS has set out helpdesk services provided by prosecutors at the Labour Courts. They are intended to identify cases requiring jurisdictional protection (in particular those relating to issues deriving from labour contracts, labour accidents and professional diseases) and to receive the corresponding requests for representation or reports on labour accidents.

      As regards the proceedings deriving from labour accidents, the PPS leads the mediation stage acting as a justice body, without representing or counselling the stakeholders. Counselling is only taken by the PPS in case no consensus has been reached and proceedings have to proceed to the litigation level.

      The PPS further intervenes (i) in the scope of the proceedings for recognition of the existence of a labour contract; (ii) in the labour administrative and social security litigation; (iii) in the legality control regarding incorporation and articles of association of trade union associations, employers’ associations and workers’ councils. The PPS is also entrusted with the task of representing the interests of the State-owned property. 


    • Criminal Area

      The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) carries out prosecution.

      It intervenes in all criminal procedure stages, being bound to collaborate with the courts in determining the truth and implementing the law, as well as to comply with criteria of strict exemption and objectivity and with the principle of legality in all its procedural interventions.

      The direction of the Inquiry is entrusted to the PPS, which means that it is responsible for determining, requesting, developing and implementing the steps aimed at investigating the occurrence of a criminal offence, identifying its perpetrators and their liability, and collecting evidence in view of a decision whether to prosecute or to discontinue the case. The judge is entrusted with acts linked to the direct compliance with the citizens’ fundamental guaranties and rights.

      During the Inquiry stage the PPS is co-assisted by the criminal police bodies, which act under the PPS direct guidance and functional dependence. Nonetheless, the PPS may act on its own discretion, without the help or assistance of the said bodies, or it may delegate on them generic or specific powers to perform the investigation, without compromising its leadership.

      The PPS’ specific tasks are: (i) reception of complaints and reports, as well as their assessment; (i) direction of the Inquiry; (iii) issuing of a final order in the Inquiry — prosecution, discontinuing or application of consensus principles legally enshrined (such as the provisional suspension of the proceedings); (iv) sustaining the accusation at the examining and trial stages; (v) lodging appeals, even though in the exclusive interest of the defense; (vi) request the enforcement of custodial sentences and detention orders.

      The Public Prosecution Service is further competent to devise criminal prevention actions and to participate in the enforcement of the criminal policy as defined by the sovereignty bodies.