As you may already know, on the 20th of September a draft for a reform of the Spanish Penal Code was published, which, according to Minister for Justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, promises to “transform” this branch of the Spanish legal system.
The text covers a multitude of facets of criminal law, although its most distinctive feature seems to be an effort to stiffen penalties and create new offences.
In an effort to be concise, we could sum up the proposed reforms in the following manner:
1) Penalties are increased in cases of theft in the countryside.
2) New offences have been created, such as forced marriage or the disclosure of intimate images without consent of the victim.
3) There is a decriminalization of the minor offenses (faltas) of title III of the code. Some have been elevated to the status of more serious crimes, while others have been channeled into disciplinary administrative law.
4) The reform provides for a new form of punishment, called “reviewable permanent prison”.
5) The judge is given greater discretion with regards to crimes committed by minors.
6) The age of sexual consent is raised to 16 years old (from 13, one of the lowest in the world), although exceptions are suggested, such as when there is a similarity in the ages of the two participants.
7) The text envisages reforms with regards to other sexual offences, punishing customers of child prostitution, even if the offence is committed abroad and criminalizing the creation of internet pages that include links to illegal sites.
Nevertheless, some of the proposed amendments deserve special consideration:
1) Reviewable Permanent Prison: a punishment applied only for particularly serious crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and the killing of the head of State or his heir or heads of State of foreign countries. In these cases, it is permitted to impose an undetermined term of imprisonment, although, upon the fulfillment of a significant part of the penalty, the sentence could be reviewed and changed depending on the circumstances.
2) Specific Criminalization of “Link Websites”: A specific criminal category has been created for these cases. Some commentators criticise this modification, which introduces a greater penalty (up to 6 years of prison) than that foreseen for violent sexual assault or facilitating child prostitution.
At the Rodriguez Bernal office, we have a department specialised in criminal law. For questions or doubts, visit http://www.rodriguezbernal.com/2011/index.php?lang=en or get in contact with us directly by email: email@example.com. Article by Mark Athos Franklin, native English lawyer at the Rodriguez Bernal legal practice.