Media Comments on McCanns v. Gonçalo Amaral trial outcome
Rua Segura is a TV program where criminal cases & current issues are debated on CMTV. In this episode the reconstruction made by CMTV [see CMTV 'Maddie Case Special'] about the night when Madeleine disappeared was shown, followed by a very short debate with Dr. Carlos Anjos, former PJ inspector and with Prof. Rui Pereira, the former Minister of Internal Affairs.
Anchor - This disappearance continues to be shrouded in mystery. Moving on to the next point, the Court of Appeals decision which revoked the sentence that obliged Gonçalo Amaral to pay half a million euro to the parents of Maddie McCann. Carlos, is this ruling a victory for Gonçalo Amaral? Is it also, in some way, a victory for the thesis defended by the former PJ inspector?
Carlos Anjos - No, I don't think so. I do think that it redresses some fairness, some justice. The arguments of the Court of Appeals in my view... I could not comprehend the decision of the 1st instance court. I have a better understanding of this decision, and I understand this decision because knowing the Maddie case as I know, I followed it at the time, and having read the book that Gonçalo wrote, there isn't much in that book that is not on the process. In other words, Gonçalo did an overview of the process, wrote the facts, he had worked on the process, and the only novelty that exists in the book and not on the process is that the process doesn't arrive to a conclusion about what happened to Maddie. It's not able to, that is, there is no proof to indicate that the McCanns were responsible for the death of their daughter. A process does not provide opinions, in a penal process or a criminal one we are limited to ascertain facts. Gonçalo has exactly that factual description of what was proven, the reconstitution of what happened, and then according to all of his knowledge of the process, and of all the information that was compiled throughout the process and with the declarations of the McCanns, he concludes in the book that what had happened was a determined situation: that the child had died earlier due to negligence or due to an accidental death and that the responsibility was of the McCanns, but that was already public knowledge. That was on the process and the process was public. That's why I don't understand the 1st instance court, because it's exactly what the Court of Appeals has now said, that there is nothing in Gonçalo's book that wasn't already public knowledge.
Anchor - Professor I ask you as well to make a brief comment, in this case can the Supreme court of justice have a decisive role taking into account that the McCann's lawyer will appeal.
Rui Pereira - No doubt. But very briefly, in here we usually comment on criminal processes, however this is not a criminal process.
Carlos Anjos - It's a civil process.
Rui Pereira - This is a civil process, in actual fact, the lawyers of the McCann family asked for compensation for damages on the basis of the harm of the rights to have a good name and image of the McCann couple. And why? Because it is easier to be indemnified in a civil process rather than in a criminal process alleging that a crime of slander and libel was committed. It's a tactic, a tactic known in procedural terms. Given the monetary value of the compensation asked, there is still the possibility to appeal to the Supreme Court, that will have the last word. What is at stake is to know, if in reality, was there any unlawful act that caused harm to the good name and image of the McCann couple.
in CMTV, Rua Segura S6 EP78, April 20, 2016
In the morning talk show Você na TV, broadcast by TVI, there is a criminal cases debate segment of which I'll post an extract. The full segment can be found at the link bellow. I found the comment by the lawyer and university professor Dr. António Pinto Pereira to be essential for a better perspective.
António Pinto Pereira - I actually think that it makes perfect sense the writing of this book in this particular case. Evidently a doctor can write a book, or a lawyer, or a judge, a police officer, in fact the decision of the court appeals...
Manuel Luís Goucha (host) - I just remembered, especially because the Judiciary police's work was called into question during the investigations.
José Paulino (PJ chief inspector) - Of course, but it's usually said that the police is like a punch bag, still it should continue to respond with restraint. And we can't react, the police can't react.
António Pinto Pereira - As I was saying, no one is forbidden of writing a book. We just can't report all the cases that we have in our professional lives and turn them into books. This is a case-study, this is the case of a lifetime and is the lifetime case of Gonçalo Amaral. Moreover, he was following with responsibilities the investigation of this crime and suddenly he was impeded, he was silenced inside the Judiciary Police itself. They told him to halt the investigation, they ordered him to stop. And at a certain point in time, they said "it's not like that". Even the organizations for which he was working said "no, it's not like that, that is an invention", and they pulled the carpet under his feet. He believed in what he was doing, has a superior knowledge to mine and to anyone else in this studio. He worked with an investigative team that had a deep knowledge of the case. And suddenly, within this context, they tell him to stop investigating. I believe that he was forced to leave from the Judiciary Police. I never understood the grounds for his departure but it's associated with this incident. Therefore, he feels outraged, it's his professional honour and integrity that are at stake and he narrates in the book that that he knows, that that he believes. What does the Court of Appeals decision say? And this Appeals' decision is remarkable. It says in essence, that the facts were exacerbated by the McCanns themselves, the parents spent their time giving interviews and talking about this case. The parents brought the case into light, not Gonçalo Amaral. In the end, he is commentating on the same facts that the parents comment, facts which are also reported by all the newspapers and media in this country. Besides, he believes and he possesses the knowledge concerning the subject he wrote, therefore it's a freedom of press exercise issue, it's a freedom of opinion issue, which is the characteristic of a democratic state of law. In fact, I never saw a court, not one first instance court nor a superior court, condemning a person to pay 500,000 euro for defaming another. Never saw that in my entire life. I would like that the deaths in Portugal had sentences like that, because the indemnifications when someone dies are "there you go 50,000 euro" which is a far inferior sum to a medium range car. That is how I would like to see the deaths compensated. I never saw half a million euro for defamation, just like it's abnormal to prohibit the publication of a book and the circulation of that book in the market, something that I find that jeopardizes the freedom of the press.
Manuel Luís Goucha (host) - That used to happen before 1974 [see Effect of censorship on Portuguese culture].
António Pinto Pereira - Yes, but it doesn't happen in the current democratic state of law, it doesn't happen in the 3rd Republic nor should it ever happen.
Manuel Luís Goucha (host) - Of course.
António Pinto Pereira - I believe this decision by the Lisbon court of Appeals to be truly remarkable and I have to congratulate the three Appellate judges that promulgated it. Now, there is going to be an appeal to the Supreme court, the process is not over yet and let's see what will be the Supreme insight over this.
in TVI, Você na TV, Crónica Criminal, April 20, 2016