Its first responsibility is to receive the reports and complaints
about crimes and initiate criminal proceedings. In the case of the more serious public crimes,
it is not required that the crime be reported by the victim. Anyone who knows about the crime may report it
, and this is sufficient for the Public Prosecutor to start the case even if the victim
does not wish this. In the case of other crimes, the victim must file a complaint within 6 months, or the Public Prosecutor cannot open a case file. If the victim is unable to do this, either because he/she is under 16 of age or is unwell, or for any other reason which prevents him/her from doing so, the complaint may be filed by a close relative such as a husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, etc. When a crime is reported to or a complaint filed with the police
, the police must receive it and then send it to the Public Prosecution Service so that a case may be opened.
The Public Prosecutor then takes over responsibility for the investigation. Police officers gather the evidence but the Public Prosecutor has the power to manage the case and may therefore guide the police as to the measures to be taken. In some complex cases, the Public Prosecutor takes an active part in gathering evidence by questioning witnesses
and expert witnesses
and visiting the crime scene, for example.
At the end of the inquiry stage
, the Public Prosecutor assesses the evidence gathered and decides whether or not it is sufficient to charge the defendant
, that is, to send him/her to trial.
To find out more about this decision, click here.
In the following phases
, that is, at the examination stage
, if there is one, and at the trial
, the role of the Public Prosecution Service is to argue the charge, that is, to support it. At the trial, the Public Prosecution Service has to prove the facts with which the defendant is charged and, in order to do so, presents the evidence gathered: witnesses, expert witnesses, and documents, among others.
Finally, the Public Prosecutor may also lodge an appeal
against a decision with which he/she does not agree. If, for example, the judge
acquits the defendant but the Public Prosecution Service considers that there was enough evidence to prove that the defendant committed the crime, it may appeal the judge's decision.
The Public Prosecution Service has a key role in informing the victims of crime. Firstly, it must provide information about which institutions support the victims and their contact details. It must also provide information about the right to file a complaint and what happens afterwards. It must also inform the victim about the possibility of requesting legal aid if he/she cannot afford to pay the case expenses. It is also the responsibility of the Pubic Prosecution Service to inform the victims of violent crimes and domestic violence victims that they can apply to the Commission for the Protection of Crime Victims (link to 5.4) for compensation. Lastly, in cases where the defendant is particularly dangerous, the Public Prosecution Service must inform victims about decisions or situations that bring about a change in his/her situation, such as parole or escaping from prison.
To find out more about the right to information, please click here.
The Public Prosecution Service offices are generally located in court buildings. In some of the bigger cities, such as Lisbon, Oporto, Évora and Coimbra, there are also Public Prosecution Service offices responsible for criminal investigation - these are called Criminal Investigation and ActionDepartments (Departamentos de Investigação e Ação Penal, DIAP).
All public prosecutors have a degree in law and have completed a specialised professional training course at the Judicial Studies Centre.
If you think that a public prosecutor has not respected your rights, you should report it to his/her direct superior. For example, in the case of a deputy public prosecutor, the facts should be reported to the public prosecutor. You may also send your complaint to the Prosecutor General's Office (Procuradoria Geral da República).