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Public Prosecution Service

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is a constitutional body entrusted with powers to prosecute, to participate in the implementation of the criminal policy defined by the sovereignty entities, to represent the State and to defend the democratic legality and the interests laid down by the law [Article 219(1) of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic/CPR].

The PPS has its own statute, being considered an autonomous magistracy from a procedural standpoint. Such autonomy is expressed through (i) the non-interference of other powers in its operation, and (ii) its concept as a distinct magistracy guided by the principle of separation from and parallelism towards the Judiciary [Articles 219(2) of the CPR, Articles 2 and 96(1) of the Statute of the Public Prosecution Service (SPPS). The PPS’s autonomy is characterized by its being bound by legality and objectivity criteria and by the exclusive submission of public prosecutors to the directives, orders and instructions laid down by the SPPS (Article 3(2)).

Although the PPS is granted competences other than the jurisdictional ones or competences that are not limited to those recognised to the courts, it pertains to the judicial power and participates autonomously in the administration of justice.

In spite of the fact that the PPS’s most recognizable powers are exercised within the criminal field, its polymorphic nature gives rise to a broaden intervention spectrum. Without prejudice to the other tasks laid down by the law, it is especially incumbent on the PPS to implement the statutory duties provided for in Article 4 of the SPPS.

— to defend democratic legality

— 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;

— to take part in the enforcement of criminal policy as defined by the organs of sovereignty;

— to prosecute pursuant to the principle of legality;

— to conduct criminal investigation and prevention activities that, within the scope of its competences, it is responsible for carrying out or promoting, assisted, whenever necessary, by criminal police bodies;

— to take legal action in administrative litigation to defend the public interest, fundamental rights and administrative legality;

— to represent ex-officio the workers and their families in view of the defence of their social rights;

— to defend the collective and diffuse interests in the cases falling within the law;

— to assume, under the law, the defence and promotion of the rights and interests of children, youth, the elderly, adults with reduced ability, and other especially vulnerable persons;

— to affirm the independence of the courts, within its powers, and to ensure that the jurisdictional duties are carried out pursuant to the Constitution and the laws applicable thereto;

— to promote, within its powers, the enforcement of court decisions;

— to oversee the constitutionality of legislative acts;

— to intervene in cases embodied of public interest;

— to perform consultative functions;

— to oversee the procedural activity of criminal police bodies;

— to coordinate the activity of criminal police bodies, as provided by law;

— to lodge an appeal whenever a decision was reached by agreement between the parties intending to defraud the law, or whenever such a decision has been rendered in clear breach of the law.

In terms of hierarchy, the PPS is a pyramid-like structure, in which the Prosecutor General is the highest ranking member. The Prosecutor General has jurisdiction over the other public prosecutors: the Vice-Prosecutor General, the deputy prosecutors general, and the state prosecutors. Public Prosecution Service magistrates are also magistrates acting as European Delegated Prosecutors and Portugal's representative at EUROJUST and their deputy and Assistant.

These agents, who are referred to as members of the PPS in the Constitution, are bound by three main principles [articles 219(4) of the CPR, 97 and 99 of the SPPS]: (i) accountability (they have to answer for the fulfilment of their duties and for compliance with the directives, orders and instructions received), (ii) hierarchical subordination (subordination of public prosecutors of a lower rank to those of a higher rank and their corresponding obligation to abide by the directives, orders and instructions received) and (iii) stability (public prosecutors may not be transferred, suspended, promoted, retired, removed from office or have their position in any way altered unless as provided for in their Statute).

According to the provisions laid down in the CPR, the SPPS and the Law on the Organisation of the Judicial System (Law No. 62/2013 of 26 August 2013), the PPS is composed of the following bodies:

— the Prosecutor General’s Office, its highest body

— the (4) Regional Deputy Prosecutors General’s Offices, which are entrusted with the leadership and the co-ordination of both the activity and the operation of the Public Prosecution Service within the areas of intervention of the judicial districts (Lisboa, Porto, Coimbra, Évora)

— the (23) County District Prosecutors’ Offices, which are entrusted with the co-ordination and the leadership of the operation of the PPS within the area of intervention of the respective judicial counties.

— the (4) Administrative and Tax State Prosecutors’ Offices, which are entrusted with the co-ordination and supervision bodies of the Public Prosecution Service in the respective area of territorial jurisdiction