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Portugal: Former minister awarded €68,000 after human rights breach linked to alleged paedophile investigation

Authorities in Portugal breached the human rights of the country’s former Labour and Solidarity Minister, during an investigation into an alleged paedophile ring.

In the case Fernandes Pedroso v. Portugal (no. 59133/11), brought by the applicant, Paulo José Fernandes Pedroso, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that there had been a violation of Pedroso’s right to liberty and security , when he was held in pre-trial detention.

In today’s Chamber judgment,  the court held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 5 §§ 1, 4 and 5 (right to liberty and security of person / procedural safeguards on review of the lawfulness of detention / right to compensation) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Just Satisfaction (Article 41), the court held, by four votes to three, that Portugal was to pay the applicant 14,000 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary damage, and, unanimously, that it was to pay EUR 13,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 41,555 in respect of costs and expenses.

The case concerned a criminal investigation into a paedophile ring, and in particular the pre-trial detention of a former Socialist Party MP, Fernandes Pedroso, who had been suspected of having had sexual relations with minors accommodated by the Casa Pia institution, a public institution responsible for running schools, training centres and boarding schools for children and teenagers from deprived backgrounds.

The court found in particular that:

- at the time when the investigating judge had given his decision on Mr Fernandes Pedroso’s continued pre-trial detention, there had been no plausible suspicions that the applicant had sexually abused minors; the arguments used to justify his detention had not been relevant or sufficient; and the judicial authorities had failed to take into account the possibility of implementing alternative measures to pre-trial detention;

- using the anonymity method (concealing the victims’ identities) vis-à-vis the crucial pieces of evidence to which Fernandes Pedroso had been denied access would have been sufficient to protect the victims’ privacy;

- in rejecting Fernandes Pedroso’s compensation claim for unlawful detention, the domestic courts had failed to interpret and apply domestic law in the spirit of Article 5 §§ 1 and 4 of the convention.

The court noted in that connection that Fernandes Pedroso had no remedy in domestic law enabling him to claim compensation after delivery of the present judgment.

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