Home News PM says Portugal’s justice system is “faster and closer to the people”

PM says Portugal’s justice system is “faster and closer to the people”

Published on 15/01/2018

It will be galling for many of Portugal’s residents, who sit and wait for the start of their court cases, to hear the Prime Minister António Costa opine that things are going so well in Portugal’s justice system.

The PM considers that justice is “faster” and “closer to the people” than of late and that “the changes that have been introduced allow for a significant improvement in the overall performance of the system.”

These are carefully chosen words from Costa as ‘allowing for a significant improvement’ is a far cry from ‘having a significant improvement’ and for tens of thousands of citizens waiting years for their day in court, his words are of little comfort.

The PM reaffirmed that he would give “better attention” to the measures of the Covenant of Justice and agrees that the justice system depend more on changes in the organisation than on changes in the law.

“In October of last year we had a reduction of 13% in civil cases and a reduction of 118,000 executive actions,” said Costa, selecting some carefully picked statistics, adding that, “this means that last year we had less pending civil actions, less pending executive actions and less time spent in resolving conflicts in our society.”

“This is very important, not only from the point of view of social recognition and legitimisation of our justice system. It is very important, obviously, for the parties to these processes, that processes are not just numbers. They are problems, realities, people, unresolved issues that have been resolved. And it is very important also for the message that it transmits to society, because the idea that the system works, in fact, discourages non-compliance,” said António Costa in Sintra today.

The Minister of Justice, Francisca Van Dunem said the ‘Justice+ Next’ programme means that citizens will be able to consult all lawsuits over the internet, similar to that allowed from May 2017 for debt collection processes.

The Justice + Next plan establishes a broad set of modernisation measures, namely the possibility for citizens to consult their executive process and the extension of the Citius procedural management system to criminal and child protection cases.

Another project, Court +, aims to “place the judicial system at the organisational level of the 21st century,” according to the justice minister who has been in office for 26 months.

The ministers’ self-congratulatory words are in contrast to the reality of Portugal’s justice system which has the highest rate of congestion for civil proceedings in the European Union.

As of December 31, 2016, there were 1,136,292 court cases pending in a country whose population is 10.5 million.

Francesca van Dunem is doing a skilled job in juggling the various elements that comprise the justice system.

The overall speed at which cases are dealt with is an historical problem that for years has cried out for radical change, the use of electronic case management systems and the cooperation of all concerned.

The speed of change may be slow but the system is changing even though this is little comfort to those currently trapped in its interminable processes.

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