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Title: Citizenship and justice: public prosecutors in social contexts in Portugal
Authors: Dias, João Paulo 
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Serial title, monograph or event: International Journal of the Legal Profession
Volume: 20
Issue: 1
Abstract: All over the world judicial systems are under tremendous pressure as the instruments used by citizens to access their full rights. The erosion of other state powers has transferred expectations of social intervention or, at least, protection for the rights of the weak and vulnerable, to the sphere of justice. Hence, in some countries the social role of judges or public prosecutors has become more important and their work is publicly scrutinised to ensure that their duties are performed correctly and fairly. In addition to criminal law, social areas of justice (concerning workers and children) have become more central to judicial systems, conferring a new public responsibility on these professionals. In several countries, including Portugal, public prosecutors are unusual within the legal profession given that they have equal status in both social and criminal areas of law. In certain systems, public prosecutors may act as a party, defending the rights of powerless citizens and leading them through the judicial process. Such powers offer great potential for fairness and justice but at the same time can lead to dangerous professional controversies. Through an analysis of the Portuguese model, one of the more advanced of its kind (in terms of intervention), some of the main features will be described and identified. Public prosecutors in Portugal have, for many years, been in charge of a set of very varied responsibilities within the context of the Family and Juvenile and Labour Courts which far exceed what is publicly acknowledged, particularly in criminal matters. However, their functions are not limited to those of the ‘public prosecutor’ or ‘coordinator of the investigation’ typically associated with responsibilities in criminal matters. Within the context of these two major and socially sensitive areas, public prosecutors act as intermediaries between the different parties and entities involved in litigation, a fact which, in professional terms, endows them with features which are atypical of magistrates and places them in close contact with citizens. Thus, taking a case study based on the Coimbra Family and Juvenile and Labour Courts as its starting point, this paper aims to map out these formal and informal functions, which create a level of importance that is probably much higher than would have been expected, particularly given the lack of truly credible and effective alternatives that enable citizens to access law and justice.
ISSN: 0969-5958
DOI: 10.1080/09695958.2013.805987
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D CES - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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