LAW NO. CCXCVII
ON THE PROTECTION OF MINORS AND VULNERABLE PERSONS
26 March 2019
The Holy Father Pope Francis
- recalling the Basic Law of Vatican City State, of 26 November 2000;
- recalling the Law on the Sources of Law No. LXXI, of 1 October 2008;
- recalling the Motu Proprio “In Our Times”, of 11 July 2013;
- recalling Law No. VIII, Containing Complementary Norms on Criminal Matters, of 11 July 2013;
- recalling Law No. IX, Containing Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, of 11 July 2013;
- recalling the Convention on the Rights of the Child, concluded in New York on 20 November 1989, ratified by the Holy See, also on behalf and in the name of Vatican City State, on 20 April 1990;
- recalling the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, concluded in New York on 25 May 2000, ratified by the Holy See, also on behalf and the name of Vatican City State, on 24 October 2001;
has adopted the following
(Scope of Application)
1. The present Law applies to the offences set forth in Title II of Law No. VIII, Containing Complementary Norms on Criminal Matters, of 11 July 2013, as well as to the offences set forth in articles 372, 386, 389, 390 and 391 of the Criminal Code, if committed to the detriment of a minor or of a person considered equivalent to a minor.
2. For the purposes of the present Law, a «vulnerable person» is to be considered equivalent to a «minor».
3. A person is vulnerable when in a state of infirmity, of physical or mental deficiency, or deprived of personal liberty, which, in fact, even if occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want or otherwise resist the offence.
(Prosecution ex officio and statute of limitations)
1. The offences referred to in Article 1 are prosecutable ex officio.
2. The limitation period for the offences referred to in Article 1 is of twenty years and begins, in the case of an offence against a minor, from his eighteenth birthday.
(Duty to report)
1. Without prejudice to the sacramental seal, the public official who, in the exercise of his functions, knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that a minor has suffered one of the crimes referred to in Article 1, must file a report without delay if the offence has been committed either:
a) in the territory of Vatican City State;
b) to the detriment of residents or citizens of the State;
c) by public officials of Vatican City State or by the subjects referred to in number 3 of the Motu Proprio “In Our Times”, of 11 July 2013, on the occasion of the exercise of their functions.
2. Unless it constitutes a more serious offence, the public official who omits or who unduly delays filing the report referred to in the preceding paragraph shall be punished with a fine from one thousand to five thousand euros. If the offence is committed by an officer or an agent of the judicial police, the penalty is up to six months of imprisonment.
3. Without prejudice to the sacramental seal, any other person, even if wholly extraneous to the facts, who is aware of acts damaging a minor may file a report.
4. If the proceedings concern a cleric or a member of an Institute of consecrated life or of a Society of apostolic life, the Promoter of Justice, having received the report, shall inform promptly the Ordinary or the Major Superior competent for the adoption of the measures provided for by canon law.
(General precautionary measures)
In the course of the criminal proceedings, the offended person:
a) is to be informed of his rights and of the services available to him, and, if he so requests, about the results of the various phases of the procedure;
b) is to be informed of the adoption and cessation, on any grounds, of any provisional or final measures restricting personal freedom of the accused;
c) can provide evidence, directly or through counsel, solicit the completion of specific investigative activities and ask to be heard;
d) is entitled to the protection of his personal reputation and privacy, as well as to the confidentiality of his personal data;
e) is entitled to the adoption of appropriate measures to prevent direct contact with the accused, without prejudice to the overriding requirements of the procedure.
(Examination of a minor)
When a minor is heard:
a) he may be accompanied by his own legal counsel, as well as by a trusted adult admitted by the examining authority;
b) if the minor is below the age of 14 years, the hearing shall always be conducted with the support of a psychologist and in a manner appropriate to its purpose. In the same way the judicial authority proceeds as in any other case in which it deems appropriate the adoption of such modalities;
c) the testimony shall be recorded, also through video, which must be acquired as evidence in court.
1. The Promoter of Justice shall require the adoption, even temporary, of measures necessary to:
a) guarantee the safety and physical integrity of the offended person;
b) keep the suspect away from the offended person or from other minors;
c) prevent the repetition of the crimes;
d) protect the offended person and his family from any intimidation or retaliation.
2. Whenever there is a conflict of interest between the minor and his legal representatives, the Promoter of Justice shall request the single judge to appoint a special curator who, at the expense of the State, shall represent his interests.
3. With a view to safeguarding the offended person, the Promoter of Justice shall:
a) ensure that the investigations be given priority and that they respect the dignity and physical and mental integrity of the offended person;
b) obtain without delay the deposition of the offended person;
c) refer the offended person to the Support Service cited in article 9.
4. The Promoter of Justice, in cooperation with the Department for Security and Civil Protection Services and with the Support Service cited in article 9, shall adopt guidelines on the procedures to be observed in judicial police activities involving minors.
When proceeding for one of the crimes referred to in article 1, the judicial authority, with a view to protecting the minor:
a) may order that the proceedings be private;
b) may arrange the deposition of the minor via videoconference or using a mirror glass together with an intercom system;
c) when there is a conflict of interest between the minor and his legal representatives, shall appoint a special curator who, at the expense of the State, shall represent his interests;
d) whenever the accused is a cleric or a member of an Institute of consecrated life or of a Society of apostolic life, shall transmit a copy of the proceedings of the trial, together with the judgement, to the Ordinary or the Major Superior competent for the adoption of the measures provided for by canon law.
(The Department for Health and Hygiene)
1. On the basis of a proposal from the Department for Health and Hygiene, the President of the Governorate shall adopt guidelines for the protection of minors.
2. The Department of Health and Hygiene shall set up a Support Service for the victims of abuse. It shall identify a qualified expert in house to whom is entrusted, as the person responsible, the coordination of this service.
The Support Service shall:
a) offer counselling services;
b) guarantee medical and social assistance to the offended persons and to their families, including emergency therapeutic and psychological assistance;
c) explain to the offended person his rights and the means to exercise them;
d) facilitate the recourse by the offended person to the judicial authorities;
e) take into account the opinion and needs of the offended person, protecting his personal reputation and privacy, as well as the confidentiality of his personal data;
f) adopt guidelines for the treatment of minors who resort to its services.
1. The Support Service shall provide minors, their parents, instructors, teachers and other persons responsible, adequate information regarding the risks of exploitation, sexual abuse and ill-treatment, as well as on the ways to identify and to prevent such offences.
2. The Labour Office of the Apostolic See shall organize, in cooperation with the Support Service, training programs for the staff of the Governorate on the risks of exploitation, sexual abuse and child abuse, as well as on the ways to identify and to prevent those offences and on the duty to report.
(Recruitment of personnel)
1. When selecting and hiring the staff of the Governorate, as well as of those who offer voluntary service, the suitability of the candidates to interact with minors shall be ascertained.
2. The Commission for the selection of personnel, with the assistance of the Support Service, shall adopt guidelines and define procedures to ascertain the suitability of the candidates.
(Entry into force)
This law shall come into force on 1 June 2019.
We command that the original of the present Law, bearing the seal of the State, be deposited in the Archive of the laws of Vatican City State and that the corresponding text be published in the Supplement to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and posted in the courtyard of St. Damasus, on the door of the offices of the Governorate and in the post offices of the State, requiring anyone who is responsible to observe it and to make sure that it is observed.
Vatican City, 26 March of the year 2019, the seventh of Our Pontificate.