“Justice returns” to outlying communities as 20 courts re-open

Justice has returned to outlying communities as 20 courts closed in the bleak days of austerity have been rescued from mothballs.

From Monchique in the Algarve, to Paredes de Coura in the north, court houses reopened on January 4 as part of the PS government’s pledge to bring justice ‘closer to the people’ (click here).

But how close is it? In Monchique for instance despite a €50,000 outlay by the local council, the town’s court building is only offering “a reduced service”, and the only jobs created from the exercise are those for onsite cleaners.

Nonetheless, mayor Rui André is delighted, posting on Facebook that the event is a coup for “the well being of the population” which now no longer needs to leave the borough to get a simple legal declaration, like a ‘registo criminal’ (certificate of criminal record, often required for day-to-day business and employment matters).

But in Sines, delight has been muted, bearing in mind the re-opened courthouse has to close every time the one woman on duty needs to go to the lavatory.

According to Jornal Económico, Sines court is located up five flights of stairs, without one single policeman available to secure proceedings.

The resident judge “does not see much advantage” to the court’s reopening, says the paper, as there are “multiple problems” which combined do not amount to bringing justice effectively closer to anyone. In fact, the situation could be summed up in a play on words: “court short”.

Taking up the case, Público points out that judicial proceedings remain with the court in Santiago de Cacém 17 kms away, and “for now it is only possible to deliver processual items, be heard in the context of a video link and deal with simple matters”, like the issue of criminal record declarations.

As for the complication of shutting every time the ‘funcionária’ (court official) needs to go to the lavatory, the Public Ministry has apparently guaranteed an extra member of staff but “up till now, no one has been appointed”.

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