British woman faces charges after complaint .jpg

British woman faces charges after complaint

By ELOISE WALTON [email protected]

A British woman is facing criminal charges after making a complaint against a Lagos-based lawyer to the national regulatory body.

According to a statement from human rights campaign group Fair Trials International, Serena Wylde, 58 and from London, could be jailed for more than six months if she is found guilty of aggravated criminal defamation.

Serena Wylde, who owns a property in Praia da Luz, wrote to the regulatory body Ordem dos Advogados, asking for disciplinary action to be taken against Fernando Pimenta de Almeida Borges, after a dispute with a neighbour.

Jago Russell, Chief Executive of Fair Trials International, said in a statement: “I am horrified that Serena is being threatened with a prison sentence for making a complaint intended to protect others.”

Fernando Borges told the Algarve Resident that following Serena Wylde’s complaint against him, he answered an enquiry from the Ordem dos Advogados before the case was archived.

“The lady wasn’t my client. I represented the opposing party in a case,” he said. “I decided to make a complaint against her in June 2006 because I was offended by her defamatory claims and I knew that I had done nothing wrong.”

Although articles in the British press claim that Serena Wylde could face a prison sentence, Fernando Borges believes that this will not be the case.

“She is accused of defamation. It’s not a serious crime, but a crime none the less and although it can be punishable with a prison sentence, the most likely outcome if found guilty could be a fine,” he said.


Francisco Teixeira da Mota, who is Serena Wylde’s lawyer, said: “Unfortunately, we don’t have a significant tradition of freedom of expression in Portugal. But as in other Mediterranean countries, we have a concept of honour which is seriously outdated. This trial should never have happened and I hope that we win it.”

Serena Wylde, quoted by Fair Trials International, said: “It is devastating to be charged with a criminal offence. In my case this happened because I told what I believe to be the truth and it has been turned against me by those who don’t want to hear it. This ordeal has made me question every reference point of my daily security, and even my own sanity.”

The case is due to be heard at Lagos court but a date for this has not yet been set.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from Fair Trials International told the Algarve Resident that the British Justice Secretary Jack Straw has intervened in the case, raising his concerns to the State Secretary of Portugal José Magalhães during a meeting in Brussels earlier this month.

Jago Russell said: “Serena Wylde should never have been threatened with a prison sentence for writing a confidential letter to a regulator.

“This shocking prosecution flies in the face of free speech and with Jack Straw’s support we hope these charges will be dropped.”

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