Two social workers will be answering charges of falsifying statements to ensure a mother lost custody of her two daughters.
The two technicians for ‘Segurança Social’ are further accused of abuse of power and prevarication.
Lisbon’s Court of Appeal has this week found in favour of the mother who for four years has been fighting authorities for the return of children “who should never have been taken” from her.
The woman told SIC television news “this will be the beginning of restoring the truth” to a truly dreadful situation.
“This isn’t a question of vengeance or money in compensation”, stresses Ana Maximiano.
Rerunning an old video clip of her struggle for justice, SIC says the mother staged a hunger strike for 26 days outside Social Security offices in Cascais shortly after her daughters were taken, but had to give up as “her body couldn’t take any more”.
At the time, tearful and exhausted, the woman told reporters, “this is an aggression. You don’t take a daughter from her mother without proof that the mother is a bad mother. The accusations are that I left my (four-year-old) daughter in a café when there are witnesses to say that I didn’t, and that I wanted to run away (with the children) when I have ever done anything like that…”
But in spite of clear indications that all was not right in this case, Ana Maximiano has had to wait all this time to hear a court finally find in her favour.
Even now, her children are not back home. This will only come after the decision by the Court of Appeal is accepted by the Family and Minors court and the latter makes a change to the girls’ arrangements.
Tragically, the mother tells SIC the girls loathe their current lives and “cannot sleep” on the last night of any period they get to stay with their mother ‘as they don’t want to go back’.
As to the background of the story, tabloid Correio da Manhã says they were “handed to their father who has condemnations for aggravated domestic violence”.
Indeed, according to CM, the social workers’ actions were “all to benefit the father”.
Appeal court judges have concluded that the social workers “knew the facts given were false. They aimed to make the court believe the children ran the risk of serious danger and obtain their withdrawal via legal mechanisms that were unjust”, said the ruling.
Ana Maximiano’s lawyer Gameiro Fernandes calls the judges’ ruling “historic”. “This is the first time in Portugal that technicians of Social Security are to be taken to court for malpractice in the exercising of their duties”.
It is unclear whether the workers involved are still even employed by Social Services. What is clear however is that this story is not yet over.
Ana Maximiano told SIC her daughters are desperate to be allowed to stay with her, but for the time being at least, they remain in their father’s custody notwithstanding that two criminal cases alleging violence having been taken out against him.