March 2. 2024. 1:22

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Portugal urged to raise reporting age for young victims of sexual abuse

Minor victims of sexual abuse crimes in Portugal should be able to report their case until they turn 30, not 22 as is currently the case, the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Portuguese Catholic Church said Monday, urging parliament to change the law.

Under Article 118 of the Portuguese Criminal Code, minors who have been victim of a sexual crime can file a complaint until he or she turns 22.

The call comes after a committee looking into historic child sex abuse claims in the Portuguese Catholic Church said that 512 victims have come forward so far, but experts say the number could be nearer 5000. Senior Portuguese church officials previously claimed that only a handful of cases had occurred.

“Given the difficulties [of the victims] in verbalising, we came to the conclusion that this age should be raised,” former justice minister Álvaro Laborinho Lúcio said during the presentation of the report of the Independent Commission that has investigated the sexual abuse of minors in the Portuguese Catholic Church since January 2022.

“So one of our motions is for this age to be raised to 30 (…) We simply suggest that the national parliament ponders and does so if it sees fit”, he stressed.

Regarding the cases sent to the independent commission, Laborinho Lúcio said that most of the 25 cases sent to the public prosecutor’s office had already surpassed the statute of limitations.

Yet, 25 of the 512 validated testimonies received throughout the year, have been sent to the public prosecutor’s office, the commission’s coordinator, Pedro Strecht added.

“Most [cases] have already lapsed,” Laborinho Lúcio also stressed.

(João Moura Lacerda, João Luís Gomes e Susana Venceslau,