Understanding the criminal justice process in human trafficking cases in Portugal: factors associated with successful prosecutions

  • Marlene Matos
  • Mariana GonçalvesEmail author
  • Ângela Maia


The overall number of convictions for human trafficking is still very low. In order to understand the barriers and gaps to human trafficking prosecutions and convictions, it is pertinent to analyse the criminal justice processes at different stages of the criminal procedure. This study aims to respond to that gap by identifying the cases that initiated criminal justice procedure for the crime of human trafficking in Portugal, through the analysis of 30 records of criminal cases for human trafficking elapsed in Portugal between 2007 and 2015. The results showed that the majority of cases (71%) were filled after the criminal investigation phase, and only 2% of all cases were convicted for human trafficking. The analysis allowed to identify the factors of effectiveness and ineffectiveness shaping legal outcomes and also, the relevance of the victim cooperation in the different stages of criminal justice processes (e.g., police investigation, trial).



This study was conducted at Psychology Research Centre, University of Minho, and supported by the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (CIG), Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marlene Matos
    • 1
  • Mariana Gonçalves
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ângela Maia
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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