Casa Pia scandal sentencing announced today

by CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

A Lisbon court will today (Friday) decide the fate of seven defendants at the end of what has been Portugal’s longest running court case.

The Casa Pia Case began in 2002 following accusations of widespread sexual abuse and trafficking of minors for sex at the famous charitable children’s educational institute, Casa Pia, in Lisbon, which were splashed over the front page of weekly broadsheet Expresso.

Some of the former pupils and victims of sex abuse have told the institution’s director, Joaquina Madeira, that they will be present when sentence is handed down at the Campus da Justiça.

Sentencing was initially scheduled for July 9 and then reset for August 5 to await analysis of a social report on one of the main defendants, Carlos Silvino.

Finally, judges decided to postpone sentencing until September, after the annual August legal holidays.

The defendants in this case are former Casa Pia pupil and driver, Carlos Silvino, popularly known as ‘Bibi’, TV presenter Carlos Cruz, doctor João Ferreira Diniz, retired ambassador Jorge Ritto, former deputy principal Manuel Abrantes, solicitor Hugo Marçal and Gertrude Nunes, the owner of a house in Elvas, Alentejo, where underage boys were allegedly abused in the 1980s.

In a television interview on Monday, Carlos Silvino told the reporter that he had himself been sexually abused at the institution from the age of five.

He went on to say he was penitent for his actions but suggested that there were other high-profile figures involved who had escaped the long arm of the law.

Carlos Cruz, who in the 1990s was one of Portuguese television’s highest paid presenters and chat show hosts, has given various TV interviews in which he has declared himself to be the victim of preconceived prejudices from one of the three judges in the case.

Other defence arguments is the threat that Carlos Cruz, who has always maintained his innocence, could reveal the name of people linked to political parties who had not been investigated by the Public Ministry’s Central Department for Criminal Investigation (DCIAP). 

According to a lead article in daily paper Público published on Tuesday, police inquiries and investigations to do with the sexual abuse of minors have almost tripled since 2002 in Portugal, from 447 cases in 2002 to 1216 last year. 

In July, on the sidelines of a conference into sexuality, education and health, the institution’s current Director, Joaquina Madeira, told reporters that “some former victims of paedophilia would be present when the sentence was handed down” after she had received formal requests to attend.

“It is important for some to be present and see justice done,” she told the news agency Lusa, adding that she hoped the reading of the sentence would “finally close this cycle in Casa Pia’s history”.

Casa Pia, one of Portugal’s oldest charitable educational institutions, was founded on July 3, 1780 during the reign of Queen Dona Maria I by benefactor Diogo Inácio de Pina Manique following the social problems that had arisen as a consequence of the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755.