The hearings that were taking place at the 1st Civil Court of Lisbon, at the Palácio da Justiça, had been on hold since October last year, so the parents of the English girl who disappeared in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, in May 2007 could reach an out-of-court settlement with Gonçalo Amaral and the other three defendants.
Since no agreement was reached between Gerry and Kate McCann and the four defendant parties, the judge who presides this court action - action which has caused Gonçalo Amaral's assets to be frozen as a precautionary measure, decided to re-schedule the restart of the sessions for yesterday.
The final allegations that were expected to take place yesterday morning at the 1st civil court in Pálácio da Justiça, were delayed following the delivery of a document at the court registry in which Gonçalo Amaral communicated to have revoked his lawyer's, Dr. Santos de Oliveira, mandate to represent him.
Gonçalo Amaral is alleged to have delivered the document in person at about 9am, however no journalist was able to capture the moment when he went or left the Pálacio da Justiça on film or on photo. The McCann couple arrived 30 minutes later and stayed most of the morning, sitting on a bench in the 3rd floor corridor of the court building.
Gonçalo Amaral's lawyer, Dr. Santos de Oliveira said before the session that he didn't know the reasons that led is client to rescind from his representation, and inside the courtroom he informed the judge that he had been dispensed.
The several defendant and accusation lawyers were then invited by judge Emília Melo e Castro to make statements on whether the trial session should proceed, or be postponed to a later date so Mr. Amaral could seek for the services of a new lawyer. Demissionary lawyer Santos de Oliveira and the other defence lawyers representing the other three parties targeted in the McCann's lawsuit argued that Mr. Amaral, given the process complexity, would need legal representation whilst Dr. Isabel Duarte argued that the trial should proceed regardless.
Dr. Santos de Oliveira [Gonçalo Amaral demissionary lawyer] - He explains that the notification sent to him by Gonçalo Amaral implies that his participation as a lawyer is inhibited: he can't function as the authorised representative of Gonçalo Amaral. He considers that, given the nature of this process, the instruction of a new lawyer is required. Therefore he asks for the suspension of the current session.
Dr. Fátima de Oliveira Esteves [Guerra e Paz book publishers] - She reminds the court of the contradictory principle which is at the core of a civil trial. If the instruction of a new lawyer is required, it can happen only after the notification. Therefore there has to be a delay in order for GA to instruct a new lawyer.
Dr Miguel Coroadinha [TVI, Portuguese TV channel] - He has nothing to add except to express his solidarity with Dr Santos de Oliveira.
Dr. Henrique Costa Pinto [Valentim de Carvalho Productions] - He observes that now the dismissal of Santos de Oliveira's mandate has taken effect, it would not be right to go ahead with the hearing, and is a compelling reason to interrupting it.
Dr. Isabel Duarte [McCann couple] - She observes that the Court was notified of the dismissal only this morning, when her clients had already left the UK (...) and finally states she considers that the hearing must not be suspended but go on with Gonçalo Amaral being asked to constitute a new representative.
Judge Maria Emília de Melo e Castro - (...)She considers more equitable to allow the defendant an adjournment to instruct a new lawyer, under the proviso that if he fails, the process will go on with the proceedings has previously established. Gonçalo Amaral is therefore given 10 days to nominate a new lawyer, reason why the current session cannot proceed.
Adapted from Anne Guedes' report from inside the courtroom
The judge decided for the adjournment of the proceedings foreseen for yesterday, re-scheduling the closing arguments for the 8th and 10th of July. On the 8th the McCann couple's lawyer, Isabel Duarte as well as the defence lawyers of the other three parties will deliver their closing arguments, while the 10th will be dedicated to Gonçalo Amaral's future lawyer closing arguments. The judge also ruled that Gonçalo Amaral has 10 days to hire a new lawyer.
After the session, outside Pálacio da Justiça, lawyer Dr. Santos de Oliveira answered the journalists questions [see transcript bellow/to follow], expressing a mix of surprise and disappointment, and also rejecting that this had been a concerted strategy between him and his client to delay the trial.
Kate and Gerry McCann appeared considerably later outside and gave a awaited press statement accusing Mr. Amaral of postponing the trial four times, causing them distress since they had "to make arrangements for our children to be looked after, we have to book flights, we have to book hotels, we have to take time off work to come here".
The couple failed to mention that they had travelled on four previous separate occasions to Portugal to accompany their own witnesses when they had not been called to testify and had no compulsory reason to be present at the Lisbon court at all.
In one of those times, the afternoon session was postponed due to a personal impediment of the judge, the other was Santos de Oliveira's request for an adjournment due to a urgent family matter.
On 7th of January Santos de Oliveira filed a request for the court to evaluate the McCann couple's legitimacy to file a lawsuit in their daughter's name since the child had been made a Ward of Court in the United Kingdom. Dr. Isabel Duarte, on the same session, filed a document that is related to Mr. Alan Pike, and asked for a postponement of that days session.
The fourth postponement was due to the McCanns themselves since they requested time to reach an out-of-court settlement with the four defending parties and the fifth, yesterday, and for the first time directly due to Gonçalo Amaral's rescission of his lawyer's mandate.
In this action, the McCann couple seeks compensation of EUR1.2 million from the former coordinator of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Judiciary Police of Portimão who investigated Madeleine's disappearance on May 3, 2007, alleging that the rights, freedoms and guarantees of the family have been violated.
In the book 'Maddie - The Truth of the Lie', written by Gonçalo Amaral, the former PJ inspector defends the involvement of Kate and Gerry McCann in the disappearance of their daughter and in the concealment of her body.
Santos de Oliveira statements to the press
Luís Maia [SIC reporter/LM] - Good afternoon, this was a morning full of surprises. First we learned that Gonçalo Amaral had revoked his lawyer's mandate, the lawyer that had defended him so far, Dr. Víctor Santos de Oliveira who spoke with us. Then all lawyers were in a meeting for several hours with the judge, to try to figure out what solution to give to this situation. The meeting lasted for quite a while, first there was a short session that lasted about 10 minutes, then followed another that lasted well over one hour. It was decided that today there wouldn't be any further proceedings. After, upon leaving the courtroom, Víctor Santos de Oliveira expressed his surprise for the decision of his client and said that this was not a strategy planned by the two of them. Let's watch the statements of Víctor Santos de Oliveira.
Luis Garriapa, another reporter from SIC TV channel [LG] - Was this a concerted decision?
Víctor Santos de Oliveira [VSO] - Absolutely not, it was not a concerted decision. I am not aware of the reasons that led to his decision but I presume that it was a decision essentially intimate from my client, basically a private matter that I don't know about, I don't have the slightest idea, however it's a decision that parties have the right to make at all times.
LG - Do you believe that it was a strategy to delay the trial?
VSO - No, I don't believe in that at all. That would be... A strategy like that would be a very ill thought strategy.
LG - Did you fall out with your client?
VSO - It has nothing to do with that, whatsoever, it's just a situation where my client has decided like that, on his own, it's his problem.
LG - Were you surprised by it?
VSO - Evidently. When a defence was already done, when there is a work done on this process, when we have accomplished milestones in the process namely the restitution of the book sales - which was achieved by this defence [meaning him], and also to successfully prove that the McCanns at the moment when they brought this action in their daughter's name, they could not have done it. Today that is more than completely established, it's obvious that his decision came as a surprise. One of the important milestones of this process, in my view, was - it wasn't one, but two - it was effectively to restitute the books so they could be sold, supported in the ruling of the Court of Appeals, that clearly states that the McCanns exposed themselves in the media by their own free will, thus becoming subject to the scrutiny of everyone. Thus it wouldn't make sense to ban the books. And there, the work of the defence was to put the books back on sale and that was fully achieved.
The second is related to a Ward of Court which means that who ultimately has the responsibility and the tutelage of the child is the English High Court. This fact was already known to the McCanns at the moment when they filled this lawsuit. It's a shame that this wasn't done immediately at start by the previous defence lawyer but now that is established and proven, so much so that there is an official decision which gives the McCanns 30 days to get the records of the English Court’s authorization under penalty of absolving the defendant Gonçalo Amaral on the request made on behalf of the missing child, the unfortunate Maddie McCann, obviously. But that is done, it's good...
LM - What is going to happen now?
VSO - ... When one leaves a process, and leaves things to be done that's not good ...
LM - [asks the same question again] What is going to happen now?
Another [unknown] reporter Was it a delaying strategy?
VSO - I don't believe that it was a delaying strategy. I really don't. I'm not even going to answer to a question formulated in that way, I don't believe it and I will not comment if it was a delaying strategy, I simply don't believe that.
LM - [asks the same question for the third time] What is going to happen now?
VSO - What's going to happen now is that the defendant Gonçalo Amaral has 10 days - following a decision based on equity and justice by the court - to appoint a new mandatary [lawyer] to represent him in the lawsuit, attach that information to the process records. Then, his declarations and the McCanns closing statements will be heard.
Broadcast by SIC, 16th July 2014
Minor update - See all the photos I took at the Palácio da Justiça on the 16th of July 2014, hosted at Pamalam's site, thank you Pam.
Read as well - The truth about the McCanns' lie by Nigel Moore at The McCann Files
McCann couple versus Gonçalo Amaral trial expected to restart on Monday