Madeleine – paedophilia in Portugal post-Madeleine

What has been the coverage of paedophilia in Portugal post-Madeleine?

The case generating the most media attention was the Casa Pia scandal, which I have covered earlier.

I have also covered the SIS year 2000 report, and whether that might have contributed to Portugal’s Operation Predator.

Casa Pia was a catalyst for people reporting paedophilia to the police, and for increased media coverage. If you look at you will find an index of paedophilia stories that have been published by Público. Each page of the index links to 10 stories, and there are about 100 stories per year. It seems other media organisations also use paedophilia (or rather pedofilia) to gather together stories on the topic.

The Público link becomes a nuisance to use after the first 5 pages, but I gone back to the beginning of 2014 to get a flavour of things.

The first point to note is that not all of the stories relate to Portugal. For various reasons, a considerable number relate to the UK. Another topic of interest is the Catholic Church.

From the rest, reports of arrests in Portugal are in the minority. Other topics include documentaries and films, and a major driver is the development of a database or register of those convicted of paedophilia within Portugal.

On 29 Jan 2014, it was reported that the Minister of Justice, Paula Teixeira da Cruz, was making the establishment of a paedophile register a priority for 2014. Of course, nothing is quite as simple as that in Portugal.

Here is a brief insight into how things developed. In early March 2015, the Council of Ministers approved the draft legislation to establish the database and how the information was to be used. On 20 Mar 2015, the weekly Expresso became the source of a story that Paula Teixeira da Cruz had manipulated the re-offence rate up from 17.6% to 80% to get the legislation through. (I have no idea whether either of these figures is true in Portugal.) Whilst approved by the Council of Ministers, the legislation had yet to be approved by Parliament.

In Parliament, the legislation was generally accepted, but one particular part was deemed unconstitutional. The offending part gave the parents of minors aged under 18 the right to go to the police and ask if person X was on the register. On 3 July 2015, this was replaced by the right of such parents, if they had genuine concerns, to go to the police and ask if there were any known paedophiles in the vicinity of their house, the child’s school and places frequented by the child. If yes, the police would state there was/were paedophile(s), without revealing the name(s) and address(es) of those concerned. The amended legislation was approved by Parliament the same day.

The legislation was approved by the President of the Republic, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, on 12 Aug 2015, so Portugal now has this register.

The register is not a direct equivalent of the UK sex offenders register, though the people looking at the proposed bill did study the workings of the UK sex offenders register. For a start, the Portuguese database is not a register of all sex offenders. Rather it is restricted to those convicted of paedophilia. Secondly, Portugal has a concept of ‘the right to forget’. After a period of time depending on the crime, the slate gets wiped clean and the police records are supposed to be expunged. This applies to DNA in the Portuguese DNA database, and it applies to paedophilia in the case of the Portuguese paedophile register. The times being debated were 5 years to 20 years after conviction, but I don’t know what went into the legislation. A point about which I know nothing is whether paedophiles are required to report to the police whilst on the register. Nor do I know if there is restriction on movement.

Having covered the development of the Portuguese paedophile register, let me move on to a couple of other stories from Público. On 7 May 2014, it was reported that the Vatican had removed 848 paedophile priests over a period of a decade. To be clear, this was a world-wide total and the report does not indicate how many of these were in Portugal. This story had passed me by, so I don’t know how it was reported in the UK. On 16 Jul 2014, Público reported that UK police had arrested 660 (six hundred and sixty) people on paedophilia charges, in a massive sweep. Público further reported that 39 of these were known sex offenders. A check on the British media makes it clear I did indeed miss this one, because the story is everywhere.

There are three further interesting points to this event. The first is that UK police made it plain they did not wish to comment of the methods they used, so that they could use the same techniques again in future, The Telegraph speculated that Scotland Yard had managed to crack the Dark Web, but provided no evidence to support this.

The second interesting point is that the operation seems to have been limited to the UK only, There is nothing to suggest that intelligence for the operation originated outside the UK, nor that other countries ran parallel raids on the basis of this breakthrou


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