Helena Machado is (or was) an associate professor in the sociology department of the University of Minho in the north of Portugal.
She has co-authored numerous scientific articles on the status of DNA within the legal system in Portugal. Given that she is both Portuguese and has clearly studied this subject in considerable depth, I have to bow to her expertise.
I have been trying to work out how there could be 3 arguidos in the Madeleine McCann case at this point in time, then combine it with ‘an arguido can be compelled to provide DNA’, and figure out how this case has not been progressed. On my reckoning, one or more of the 3 arguidos should have been matched and charged, or there is no DNA match and the arguido status should have been lifted.
The problem part is that ‘an arguido can be compelled to provide DNA’. Helena Machado has given a better explanation, which is that an arguido can be compelled to provide DNA, if a judge signs an order to this effect.
It is not up to SY or the PJ, it is up to a judge.
As a sociology professor, Helena Machado’s field of expertise is about how Portugal should, ethically, embrace DNA technology.
As a brand, spanking new technology in Portugal it clearly has the potential to solve crimes that previously have escaped punishment. Equally, Professor Machado has written about the concerns that DNA evidence could be ‘planted’ in cases in order to secure convictions where evidence does not otherwise exist.
Helena Machado has also co-authored articles that deal specifically with Madeleine McCann, and that is easy to check on-line.
The following was published in 2009 with co-author Filipe Santos. “Two cases of missing children in Portugal (Joana and Maddie) have recently highlighted the dilemmas and contingencies associated with the technology of “genetic fingerprinting” for forensic purposes in the context of criminal investigations. The purpose of this article is to analyze the popular press’s discourses and representations around forensic genetics in the context of those two highly mediatized criminal investigation cases.”
This appears to be a paper on the difference between popular media’s take on what should happen (more recently replayed in the story of 444 hairs, 432 human, 98 with no result), and the reality of Portuguese technology in 2009 (no national DNA database).
Another article also co-authored in 2009 with Filipe Santos, of Coimbra University, looked at how the Portuguese press had responded to the Madeleine McCann disappearance.
“Our analysis is limited to a sample of representative Portuguese newspapers. We found a basic distinction between ‘quality’ and ‘popular’ press which may be related to inherent differences of their market and implicit audiences. A distanced, neutral and reflexive style of the quality press contrasts with the construction of a sensationalistic narrative by the popular press. The latter provided the audience with a daily dose of vicarious participation in a criminal drama which developed into a trial by media, sustained by a rhetoric that encourages the audience to ‘take sides’.”
Does this sound familiar in the Madeleine McCann case?
The key factor for me is that Helena Machado has clarified a central point. SY cannot wade in, state they want someone made an arguido, then force them to provide DNA. It is up to a judge to decide whether DNA can be collected from an arguido or not.
From a current search, it appears that Helena Machado has now taken up a post as a professor in the sociology department of Coimbra University.
Here is Helena and Filipe.