It has been three days since the presentation of the draft of the very controversial “Law of Public Safety” in the Council of Ministers. It is a reform that has left few people indifferent, since it affects acts such as insults to public authority or demonstrations without permission before the Congress, that may soon be punished with fines of thousands of euros.
In response to criticism from the public, various precepts of the first draft have been modified. For example, threats or insults to police officers were considered serious offenses in the early drafting of the project, and were punished with fines of up to 30,000 euros. Currently this conduct has been classfied as a minor offense and the fine has a ceiling of 1000 euros.
Similarly, protests outside the Congress, the Senate or the organs of Government of the Autonomous Communities are not now considered very serious infractions (with a fine of up to 600,000 euros), but they will be serious infractions (a fine of up to 30,000 euros).
There remain some offences punished as very serious, as it is the case of disturbances of security at public events, demonstrations in airports, stations and power plants.
However, the reform has not only been criticised for the severity of its sanctions. The idea of employing administrative sanctions for acts that many believe should only be prosecuted before the courts has also been questioned. It is what some legal experts call the “escape” of criminal law into administrative law, whereby the Government takes it upon itself to substitute judges in punishing criminal behavior. Moreover, when citizens want to appeal administrative penalties, they will have to pay court fees, effectively violating the right of citizens to have affordable access to justice.
Also troubling is the desire of the authorities to limit the right of citizens to organize demonstrations against the Government. While the new law does not directly criminalise demonstrations (which would be unconstitutional), it does foresee penalties for mere participants in such manifestations when they are not properly communicated to the authorities by the organizers. Such previsions create a state of intimidation in the public when it comes to exercising their right to protest.
It remains to be seen if further amendments will be introduced to the text of the preliminary draft. From this page we will keep you informed on the latest developments.Article by Mark Athos Franklin, English lawyer in the Rodríguez Bernal law firm. Antonio Pedro Rodriguez Bernal has been practicing Law for over fifteen years and has extensive experience in criminal matters and in administrative procedures. For more information, visit our webpage’s related section or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.