How a Portuguese judge was prohibited from analyzing domestic violence cases

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After several accusations, the Portuguese judge Neto de Moura, was prohibited from analyzing domestic violence cases, considering that he was playing a role of understanding towards the aggressors.

In order to better understand the controversial story of cases regarding domestic violence, tried in the Tribunal da Relação do Porto (Oporto Court of Appeals), in Portugal, we need to rewind to 2017. On October 11, two men were sentenced in a domestic violence case to a suspended sentence. The victim in question was assaulted by her ex-husband and the man with whom she betrayed him. The aggressors confronted the woman for her adultery and violently assaulted her with a wooden stick with nails.

The Public Prosecution Service appealed against that decision, but the Oporto Court of Appeals upheld the sentence. Some experts quickly questioned the validity of the statements made by the rapporteur, Judge Neto de Moura, in the judgment.

“Woman adultery is a conduct that society has always condemned and strongly condemns (and honest women are the first to stigmatize adulteresses), and so the violence of the man betrayed, abused and humiliated by the woman is understandable.”

After several demonstrations against the controversial ruling, a joint complaint was filed by several organizations submitted to the Superior Council of the Judiciary, among them UMAR (Union of Women, Alternative and Response), APAV (Portuguese Victim Support Association), the Association of Women against Violence, the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights, and the Capazes (feminist association).

The Diário de Notícias investigated more cases and apart from this one, stands out one in which the judge decided to remove the electronic bracelet from a man who busted a woman’s eardrum in June 2018. In January 2013, Neto de Moura did not consider as domestic violence the case of a man who had hit his wife with a punch in the nose while she held their baby son of nine days in her arms, saying that it was a simple offense to physical integrity.

Another case regarded an adulterous woman assaulted by her husband, who saw her testimony being disregarded, considering that she had betrayed her husband. This was because the rapporteur Neto de Moura considers that “an adulterous woman is a disguised, false, hypocritical, disloyal person who lies, deceives, pretends” and “lacks moral probity.” The Judge goes so far as to cite the Bible in the first case exposed, noting that it can be read in it that “the adulterous woman is to be punished with death” and recalls the Portuguese Penal Code of 1886 in which punishment would be only symbolic when men killed their adulterous wives.

At the beginning of February 2019, the Superior Council of the Judiciary sanctioned Neto de Moura with a warning, one of the lighter sanctions in the disciplinary catalog of the class, recorded by the judgment of October 2017, in which the Judge-Rapporteur censures the victim of domestic violence for being unfaithful. After what happened, Neto de Moura even asked to stop judging domestic violence, but the Supreme did not authorize it.

Recently, in an interview with Expresso, the judge affirmed that the cases judged were not “particularly serious” and that it makes sense to cite the Bible to support judgments about assaults motivated by marital infidelity. Last Wednesday, March 6, Judge Neto de Moura was removed from the analysis of criminal appeals and passed to the civil court (to consider divorce proceedings and regulation of parental responsibilities), which means that he will stop judging cases of domestic violence. The aim of this measure was to preserve citizens’ confidence in the justice system, considering the various protests, which put the justice system in question. Neto de Moura has already indicated the intention to appeal the decision and the appeal should be filed in the next few days in the Supreme Court of Justice.

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