Wednesday, 24 October 2012

'Revisable' life sentences announced for terrorism and child murder

Changes to Criminal Code to apply these sentences to cases of assassination, genocide and crimes against humanity
MADRID Spain's Criminal, or Penal, Code is to undergo significant changes, some of which we have dealt with in other items. Perhaps the most significant of these changes is in what is being called permanent revisable prison sentences, which is to be applied not only to murder by terrorists but also to the more serious cases of child murder and to those of genocide, assassination and crimes against humanity. This was the essence of the Minister of Justice's press conference that followed the Council of Ministers meeting last week. He said, too, that the permanent 'revisable' prison sentence is similar to life sentences in other countries. And another form of sentence is introduced: the so-called security custody.COMING SOON: SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION>>>The new Criminal Code will also contain measures against using text and social network messages to prepare for the commission of a crime, as well as incitement to grave public disorder.

Permanent and revisable
Permanent prison sentences will have an indefinite duration period, which can be revised after a certain period of incarceration, depending on the convict's circumstances. 'Security custody' establishes jail time of up to ten years in exceptional cases, when the sentence has been completed in full and the tribunal considers the element of danger inherent to the case and the convict.

Revision, on the other hand, happens after the minimum jail term established for the case and depends on whether it is a single sentence or part of several, and depends on a variety of circumstances that the Minister did not define. These jail terms vary between 25 and 35 years depending on the gravity of the crime, and a revision cannot be sought before these terms have expired. The convict can request a revision and the tribunal has a maximum of one year to make a decision. A revision can be requested once every two years after the first request.

Ruiz-Gallardón said that the new measures meet the constitutional requirements (Article 25.2 of which says: 'jail terms and custodial sentences are oriented towards re-education and social re-insertion') and are similar and comparable to those applied in other countries such as France and Switzerland.

In many cases, the Spanish media see these new measures as 'closing the door after the horse has bolted', given that they come after the controversial conditional bail given to the ETA terrorist Iosu Uribetxebarria Bolinaga, who was released because he was a cancer patient (it is debatable whether terminal or otherwise).

Other recent cases, which forced the inclusion in the new Criminal Code of measures regarding the disappearance of people, or their bodies, resulting from illegal retention or kidnapping, and their disappearance can be connected to their supposed death. This will amount to homicide and will result in a hardening of the sentence when the victim is a minor or there is a sexual motive.

The minister avoided giving names to the cases we refer to above, the changes can logically be related to the disappearances of Marta del Castillo, whose body has never been recovered, despite contradictory confessions from the alleged perpetrators, and to the disappearance of the bodies of two children in Granada, Ruth and José Bretón, whose father was recently charged with their murder though their bodies have not been recovered after several fruitless searches. (Update: Human bones were found in the remains of a fire at the father's parents' property, but at least one bone seems to have vanished from the laboratory carrying out DNA tests - it is a very puzzling case.)

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