Judge who ‘condoned’ vicious attack on woman with nail-spiked club gets off with a warning
Joaquim Neto de Moura – the judge who essentially ruled that domestic violence is okay when applied to an adulteress – has been sanctioned by his peers… to the lightest possible ‘punishment’ of all: a warning.
His co-judge, who signed off on the ruling that ‘went viral’ in 2017 (without apparently even reading it ) – saw the disciplinary case against her archived.
Say reports in the Portuguese press today, it was the president of the Supreme Court of Justice who ‘saved’ Neto de Moura’s proverbial bacon.
Four members of the superior council of magistrates wanted to ‘fine him’, explains Diário de Notícias, while four were in favour of simply giving him a warning.
Thus the president had the final vote – and he “chose the lighter term”.
DN also stresses that “in spite of various rulings having been identified in which Neto de Moura used the same “justification or argument” for belittling cases of domestic violence against women – always arguing that the victim’s adultery, whether real or suspected, was the cause of the aggression – the council only set out to pronounce on the most recent case”: the one that saw the UK Guardian comment that “ultra-orthodox patriarchy – one of the cornerstones of the fascist dictatorship of António Salazar up until the 1974 revolution – still survives in parts of Portugal”.
This has been a dismal chapter for Portuguese justice and it comes in a week when a violent father, who had been repeatedly denounced to the authorities by his terrified ex-partner, stabbed his mother-in-law to death and then strangled his own baby daughter before committing suicide.
The ‘institutional failings’ that led to this week’s tragedies are, say pundits, part-and-parcel of the mindset of elements of the judiciary, of which Neto de Moura is simply one example.
Talking on her regular TV slot before the ‘sanction’ was made public, commentator Manuela Moura Guedes said she was “shocked” – not simply by Neto de Moura’s words and rulings, but by the fact that seven fellow judges on the superior council of magistrates had actually wanted the disciplinary case against him archived.
These seven abstained from voting in the final instance, which is why in the end only eight magistrates were involved.
“This judge should not stay in office ”, Moura Guedes told news anchors. “Women are not the property of men”.
Neto de Moura, however, is not even content to accept his ‘warning’. His lawyer has told Lusa news agency that he means to appeal.
WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?
The story goes back years and was neatly explained by the Washington Post as a situation in which “a married Portuguese woman began seeing another man. The affair was brief — and after two months, the woman wanted to end it.
“In response, the woman’s former lover turned to her husband, telling him his wife had been unfaithful. The couple divorced. But the two men, both enraged, worked together to plan an attack on the woman.
“In June 2015, the former paramour kidnapped the woman and held her down while the ex-husband beat her viciously with a nail-spiked club, leaving bruises and lashes all over her body.
“After charges were filed in the assault, the ex-husband was given a 15-month suspended sentence and a fine of about $2,000.
“A prosecutor thought he deserved a harsher sentence, and asked an appeals court in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, for prison time of three years and six months.
“But the appeals judges (of which Neto de Moura was the boss) decided against it.
“Why? Because they felt it was somewhat understandable that a husband in a “depressive state” would act out against an ex-wife who had betrayed him”.
Neto de Moura’s 20-page ruling quoted passages from the Bible “in which one can read that an adulterous women should be punished with death”, cited cultures still in existence where “adulterous women are stoned to death” and even quoted the penal code of 1886 which “not so long ago punished with a little more than a symbolic penalty a man who, believing his wife to be an adulteress, kills her”.
The document insisted that “the adultery of a woman is a very serious attack on the honour and dignity of (her) man”.
The case prompted outrage and street protests in both Lisbon and Porto.
Left-wing MP Catarina Martins joined calls for Neto de Moura’s ‘removal from all cases involving domestic violence’ saying: ““We know that this is not a one-off isolated case for this judge”, and stressing that “only 16% of complaints about domestic violence get to court and in more than 90% condemnations result in suspended sentences”.
Nonetheless, there are those who believe this ruling sends a powerful message to the judiciary.
It is the first time any judge has been ‘disciplined’ in this way, says Inês Ferreira Leite, lecturer in penal law – and this explains the reason perhaps for magistrates being divided.
“We all want judges to have the liberty of decision” she told reporters, “but a ruling like the one in question is intolerable in light of contemporary social conceptions and the fact that it contradicts the Constitution”.
It was absolutely right that Neto de Moura’s justifications and expressions were censured, she said.
It now remains to be seen if the judge really does move forwards with an appeal.