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Legal medicine

Forensic Medicine
The National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences and Forensic Medicine Offices work with the courts and other services and organisations that operate within the administration of justice system, conducting the medical tests and forensic examinations that are requested.
Forensic examinations of the victim of a crime are a key part of the legal system. The victim’s body is examined for marks caused by violence used during the crime, such as scratches, redness, wounds, bruising or other injuries. They are also used to find any biological or non-biological traces on the victim’s body and/or clothes and items which may have been left or used by the offender, such as blood, sperm, vaginal fluids, skin, hair, fibres, etc.

These forensic exams are very important because they can provide very significant evidence for criminal proceedings. Besides their usefulness in gathering evidence of the violence used, these exams may also play an important role in the victim's recovery, as they provide a time of quiet and healing in contrast to the violence of the crime that was committed.

Commission for the protection of victims of crime

Commission for the protection of victims of crime

The Commission for the Protection of Victims of Crime (Comissão de Proteção às Vítimas de Crimes) is the section of the Ministry of Justice responsible for receiving, examining and deciding on claims for State compensation filed by victims of violent crimes and victims of domestic violence.

Protection for victims of violent crimes includes the payment of compensation from the State, when the offender is unable to pay and the disruption caused to the quality of life and standard of living of the victim has been considerable.

Victims of domestic violence are entitled to receive cash benefits from the State whenever, as a consequence of the crime of domestic violence, they find themselves in a situation of serious financial hardship.

This application does not carry any fees or charges for the victim and all the necessary documents and certificates for filing the claim can be obtained free of charge.

The Commission is located in Lisbon, at Av. Fontes Pereira de Melo, 7 - Piso -1, and can be contacted by telephone (21 322 24 90), fax (21 322 24 91) or email (

Social security services

Social security services
The Portuguese social security service (Segurança Social) is a body set up by the State to ensure the basic rights of the citizens and equality of opportunities, and to promote the wellbeing and social cohesion for all Portuguese citizens and foreign nationals working or living in Portugal. To this end, a percentage of the pay and income of employed or independent workers and companies is paid into a community fund. This fund is used in situations such as unemployment, pensions, guaranteed minimum salary, family benefits, and healthcare and other social benefits.

The social security system establishes rules for granting benefits, stipulating the conditions a family must meet to have access to family, unemployment and child benefits, as well as other State benefits and support. A maximum earnings limit is also defined on the basis of fixed assets and total family income as a cut off point for benefit entitlement.

The social security system has an online page entitled Segurança Social Direta where individuals and companies can access social security services without having to visit their premises. At Segurança Social Direta you can view your personal data registered in the social security information system and change it (or ask for it to be changed).

Segurança Social can also be contacted by phone at 808 266 266.
If you are abroad, dial (+351) 210 495 280. This line provides information on the rights and duties of citizens and companies. The telephone system will ask you to choose the topic on which you would like information.

The Portuguese social security system has a Social Emergency Help Line (LNES) - 144 (Linha Nacional de Emergência Social, LNES - 144).
This is a public service provided by the Institute for Solidarity and Social Security (Instituto de Solidariedade e Segurança Social, ISSS, I.P.). Calls to this national number are free of charge, 24 hours a day, all year round, to protect and safeguard the safety of citizens in a social emergency. To contact this service, dial 144.

For more information, access to services, location and contact details, please click here.

Healthcare services

Healthcare services
If you need medical treatment as a result of a crime, do not hesitate to seek it immediately by going to a hospital or health centre. Inform the healthcare professional who attends you that your injuries are the result of a crime and do remember that the medical report is very important for criminal proceedings, or for any potential compensation claim or insurance claim.

The emergency telephone number in Portugal is 112 (European Emergency Number). Calls are free and the service operates 24 hours a day all year round. The 112 emergency number is linked to the Integrated Medical Emergency System (Sistema Integrado de Emergência Médica, SIEM), which comprises several organisations working towards the common objective of providing support to accident victims or people who are taken ill suddenly. These organisations are the Public Safety Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública, PSP), the National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana, GNR), the National Medical Emergency Institute (Instituto Nacional de Emergência Médica, INEM), the Fire Service (Bombeiros), the Portuguese Red Cross (Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa, CVP), and hospitals and health centres. INEM is the section of the Ministry of Health responsible for coordinating SIEM operations in mainland Portugal.

For additional information, location and contact details, please click here.

Police station

Police station
A complaint or report may be filed with the criminal investigation directorates or departments of the Criminal Investigation Force (Polícia Judiciária), or at the stations of the Public Safety Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública) or of the National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana).

Each of these authorities has a duty to receive all complaints and reports made to them, even if the crime was not committed within their territorial area or, in the case of the police forces, they do not have jurisdiction for the investigation.

Reporting a crime or filing a complaint is free of charge, does not require formalities and can be done verbally or in writing. You should include as many details as possible to help the investigation: day, time, place and circumstances of the crime, identification of the suspect(s) and the names of any witnesses and any other evidence.

When the victim reports a crime or files a complaint, he/she is entitled to receive a certificate showing that the complaint was registered, that is, a document confirming that the complaint was made and stating the type of crime, along with the date and place, and the harm caused.

As soon as a complaint or report is received, or when a police officer witnesses a crime, the police have a duty to inform the Public Prosecution Service as soon as possible so that it can initiate criminal proceedings. However, if there is a danger that relevant evidence might be lost or destroyed, before informing the Public Prosecution Service, the police should urgently carry out all the necessary acts to prevent this from happening - for example, immediately apprehending the vehicle in which a murder was committed and which the suspect might want to hide or destroy in order to conceal any evidence.

It is for the police to pursue the investigation under the guidance of the Public Prosecution Service. It is the police that will gather evidence by examining the crime scene, questioning the victim, the defendant and the witnesses, obtaining documents, requesting the cooperation of expert witnesses, carrying out searches and placing phone taps, etc.

During the investigation, if the victim wishes to provide further information or find out about the case, he/she should contact the police officer in charge of the investigation. If the victim has been threatened or intimidated, or fears for their safety, they should report this to the police authorities.


APAV - Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima / Portuguese Association for Victim Support- is a national non-profit social solidarity organisation.

APAV works towards promoting awareness, esteem and respect for the status of crime victim in Portugal. Its mission is to support victims of crime, their families and friends, by providing them quality services that are free of charge and confidential and by contributing to the improvement of public, social and private policies concerned with the status of victim.
APAV supports everyone who was a victim of crime and violence, their families and friends.

We support victims of any crime: domestic violence, ill-treatment, threats, murder, sexual crime, kidnapping, abduction, mugging, theft of or with a motor vehicle, pickpocketing, burglary, robbery, fraud, extortion, abuse of trust, document falsification, damage, cybercrime and racial discrimination, among others.

Anyone who is a victim of crime will find at APAV the emotional, practical, legal, social and psychological support that they need to deal with and overcome the consequences of being a victim. This support is provided by professionally trained and certified victim support officers.

Victims are entitled to victim support services even if the crime was not reported.

For location and contact details, please click here.


Courts are sovereign bodies which administer justice, that is to say, they have the power to settle legal disputes. Court decisions are binding on all public and private organisations and prevail over those of any other authorities.

Access to justice is guaranteed for all citizens so that they can defend their legally-protected rights and interests. If anyone cannot afford legal expenses, they may apply for legal aid.

Judges decide only according to the Portuguese Constitution and law.

The Public Prosecution Service (Ministério Público) is the body responsible for representing the State, prosecuting criminal offences and protecting the rule of law and the interests determined by the law. Its 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).

These lawyers take part in the administration of justice and provide legal representation for the parties.
The court officer works in the administrative offices of the courts and the Public Prosecution Service offices. These officers are responsible for carrying out the orders of the judge and the Public Prosecution Service and to conduct, on their own initiative, some administrative actions required for the proceedings to run smoothly.

Do plan your trip to the court in advance by getting information about its exact location and estimating the travel time. If you get the chance, go to the court a few days before the trial so you become familiar with the different areas, such as the courtroom and the witness waiting room and, if possible, attend another trial or at least part of it.

If possible, try to arrive a little early as security checks sometimes take time, particularly in the larger courts, and to find out exactly where you must go. If you are not sure, ask a court officer, who will be able to direct you to where you need to go. After reaching your destination, wait until a court officer calls the names of the people attending the trial. Respond when your name is called so that your presence there is recorded. You should then wait until the court office calls you into the courtroom.

Trials are almost always open to the public, that is, anyone can go into the courtroom and attend the hearing. There are a few exceptions, however, such as in cases involving sexual crimes or human trafficking. In these trials, the public is not usually allowed into the courtroom in order to protect the victim's privacy.

To see a courtroom and know who participates in a trial, please click here.

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