Lisbon Players case winds up ahead of court decision

A Lisbon court heard the last witness for the British Government on Wednesday last week in a case which will decide an English language theatre group’s right to remain or not at a premises the group has occupied since 1947.

The Lisbon Players Association has been in court since September fighting for the right to remain based at a theatre building on a contested site at Estrela in the city.

The British Government, through the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, wishes to dispose of the overall Estrela site following a directive handed down from the Government in 2004 concerning surplus British Government owned land.

Dr. Paulo Lowndes Marques, honorary legal advisor to the British Government and its final witness, said in court that the building occupied by the Lisbon Players was the property of the British Government.

But the Lisbon Players Association, which is claiming ‘Usucapião’ or Squatters Rights under Portuguese law, argues that there have been problems with registration over the years.

The Lisbon Players have been arguing that any action being taken is “based purely on securing a future for the Lisbon Players within the legal compass of the Portuguese law.”

Dr. Piedade Pinho, for the Lisbon Players Association, in her summing up, defended the claim that by its long-term peaceful, uncontested and public occupation and use of the theatre building, and having been responsible for repairs and maintenance since it moved into the building in 1947, it had clear rights to the ownership of the building.

The British Government was represented in court by lawyer Carlos Costa e Silva of Barrocas Advogados. The lawyer has decided not to issue any statements directly to the press.

The Lisbon Players and the British Government are in dispute over the building’s supposed ownership.

The British Government is arguing that the building is owned by the British Protestant School Fund which is looked after by the Trustees, Father Michael Bullock and Consul Simona Demuro, and has an open bank account.

The Lisbon Players has been arguing that the British Protestant School Fund has been effectively wound up, has not had a meeting or presented accounts since 1973 and is no longer on the British Charity Commissioners website.

The British Government, which has mandated the management and sale of the Estrela properties on behalf of the stakeholders to CB Richard Ellis, argues that the Fund is still in existence and was removed from the Commissioners’ website for administrative reasons. The British Government said it would not be making any further comments until the end of the court case which was due on October 27. Read an update of this story in next week’s Algarve Resident.

Chris Graeme