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GNR agent “on breadline” refused permission to declare economic hardship

The horrendous situation of GNR agent Hugo Ernano is back in the public eye after the father-of-two received a salary in June of just €16.38 but has been denied permission to declare a state of poverty.

The 37-year-old – suspended from duty over the accidental killing of a child during a police chase in 2008 – has been through endless difficulties since a Loures court condemned him to nine-years in jail and thousands of euros in compensation payments to the dead child’s parents.

As readers may recall, the father of the dead child – Sandro Lourenço – had taken his 13-year-old son along with him when he went to steal copper from a deserted farmstead.

A police report into the incident confirmed that Ernano “had complied with all police procedures that regulate the use of firearms”: there had been a danger to third parties (Sandro Lourenço’s getaway van was heading in the direction of a group of youngsters); the man was trying to evade capture; he and his accomplice had been advised to stop, and all ballistic evidence pointed to the fact that Ernano had been shooting at the tyres, not at the body of the vehicle.

But a bump in the road had caused one shot to bounce-up, and tragically it entered the back area in which, unknown to police, Lourenço’s teenage son lay crouching.

The Supreme Court has since reduced Ernano’s prison sentence to a suspended sentence of four years, but his subsequent suspension from the GNR service on two-thirds of his pay until December sees him in complete desperation.

The pay cut should see him receive €283 per month, but this is being further reduced by loan repayments which he incurred for his legal defence.

In June, the result was he received just €16.30. In July, Ernano’s salary went back up to €149, but he stresses this doesn’t even cover basic expenses.

Sandro Lourenço, meantime, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for thefts, attempted murder and kidnapping.

Ernano nonetheless still faces having to pay him €20,000 in compensation, and the dead child’s mother another €35,000.

It is an outcome that has led to all kinds of money-raising campaigns, none of which have been able to properly sustain the Ernano family’s lives.

The GNR man’s wife works full time, but only earns a minimum wage of €530.

The hope now is that the ministry of internal administration will allow the opening of a “support fund” to be handled by national tabloid Correio da Manhã. But for this to happen Ernano has to be considered to be in a state of economic insufficiency, explains the paper, and so far bureaucracy is simply not letting this happen.

“I am carrying this cross for all police agents,” Ernano explains. “If I lose this battle, we all lose, because this kind of thing can happen to anyone.”

CM has added that “in this case, justice has not been blind, it has been inept and unjust”.

While Ernano was simply doing his job, the family of his victim has won a “fat compensation” deal that “if it wasn’t so dramatic, would be laughable”.

“Without the means to support his family, do we want Hugo Ernano to stop being a proud GNR agent and fall finally into the trap of some kind of illegality,” the paper questions. “It would seem so.”

By NATASHA DONN natasha.donn@algarveresident.com