Plan has been described as a “real structural reform”
Portugal’s government has approved a €200 million plan to carry out build, carry out improvements or equip national justice sector buildings between 2023 and 2027.
Minister of Justice, Catarina Sarmento e Castro, has described the plan as “a real structural reform.” Speaking to Lusa, the minister stressed the unprecedented nature of this multi-year investment programme directed at the sector’s infrastructures, acknowledging the “current existence of weaknesses in various areas”.
For this reason, she said, the funds will be earmarked for the building and equipping of courts in all the country’s districts, as well as prisons, PJ police and the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (INMLCF).
“It’s a real structural reform because, for the first time in the justice system, priorities are being set, looking at the state of the facilities, the seriousness of the situation, the urgency that needs to be resolved and the trend regarding the state of these facilities,” she said. “This means that by 2027, the justice system will invest €200 million in facilities, but also, for example, in vehicles for the prison” services.
According to the minister, the largest share of investment is to be in the construction and renovation of courts, a sector for which €106.8 million has been earmarked, for buildings such as the new palaces of justice for Leiria, Coimbra and Aveiro, but also the new Central Administrative Court, the building for which has already been identified in Castelo Branco, with the signing of the relevant protocol with the local authority expected “in the coming weeks”.
Asked if this commitment to improving the physical conditions of the country’s courts is a response to a warning made in May by the vice-president of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM), Luís Azevedo Mendes, that the organisation could ban courts whose conditions are inadequate, the minister stressed that the aim was only to “solve problems” after the diagnoses made in discussions with court officials and others.
“Since I arrived here, what I set out to do was solve problems and that means prioritising,” she said. “It meant making a study of the reality and we did this by looking at concrete cases, going to the courts, consulting not only all the justice services, but also those that depend on the services of the ministry and other partners who sent us their needs.”