• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Spain's legal system only fit for 'chicken thieves'

The Local · 22 Oct 2014, 11:20

Published: 22 Oct 2014 11:20 GMT+02:00

The chief magistrate of Spain’s Supreme Court and president of the judicial watchdog the CGPJ said Spain cannot make democratic advances while the justice system remains ineffective and overburdened. 

Speaking at a conference organized by the newspaper the conservative newspaper La Razón, Carlos Lesmes said: "If the judiciary does not function, there can be no democratic regeneration in our country; we must all push for the strengthening of this institution."

Justice is notoriously slow in Spain, particularly in complex cases, as illustrated in recent times by the high-profile Gürtel political kickbacks case and the Andalusian government subsidies fraud probe, which have been investigated by judges since 2009 and 2011, respectively, without any of the major suspects having been put on trial.

Speaking at the event before fellow judges and senior members of government, including Interior Minister Jorge Fernández and the government’s new justice chief, Rafael Catalá, Lesmes said that without a major overhaul of the court system, complex cases involving corruption and other kinds of sophisticated criminal activities could not be dealt with effectively.

The current Criminal Trial Law, he said, is designed for "chicken thieves, not for major fraudsters or for the cases we are seeing now involving such high levels of corruption".

He underlined the fact that Spain’s main political parties agree that the current legal system is “inadequate” to bring corruption to heel and urged those in power to correct its deficiencies.    

Any new law, he said, should give prosecutors a bigger role during the investigative stage, as in other continental European countries.

In Spain, a single investigative judge oversees the preparation of a case, often adding fresh components to the probe which then becomes an unwieldy and extremely slow process.

One of the dangers in this is that the statute of limitations can expire if several years elapse between the crime and the eventual trial.  Lesmes criticized this tendency to create "macro-trials" which cannot be carried out for many years after the facts being investigated occurred.    

However, Lesmes himself is at the head of a system which has been widely criticized as being too politicized and subject to horse-trading over appointments.

He was chosen as CGPJ and Supreme Court chief last December as a result of an agreement between Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the then-leader of the opposition, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Most of the vacant seats on the CGPJ went to magistrates with connections to conservative or left-leaning judges’ associations in accordance to the relative parliamentary strength of the two main parties, the ruling Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists.

Story continues below…

Lesmes, who is seen as a Catholic conservative close to the PP, refused to be drawn on whether it was preferable for top judges to continue to be chosen by parliament or elected by members of the profession, as some have suggested.

"The important thing is that the selection is done well," he said.

Justice Minister Catalá has said he will drive forward the court reform process instigated by his predecessor, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who resigned last month after his proposed restrictive changes to Spain’s Abortion Law were not supported by the Rajoy government.   

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain ups security at tourist spots as terrorism fears grow
A policeman outside Seville's Alcazar. Photo: AFP

A spate of terror attacks carried out by individuals in France and Germany has prompted Spain to boost security at tourist spots.

Air Europa pilots call off four-day strike
Photo: AFP

Good news for those flying with Air Europa as pilots have called off a strike planned for July 30th to August 2nd.

Jihadist brothers arrested in Catalonia for financing Isis
Photo: AFP

The two brothers were arrested in Girona, in northeastern Spain, on Wednesday morning.

Ex-cop shoots new in-laws at wedding reception in Spain
Vintage bride and groom ornaments. Photo: Jean L / Flickr

A retired Civil Guard fired shots at members of his bride's family during the wedding celebrations and then turned the gun on himself.

Spain calls in army as wildfire reaches nature reserve
A plane fights a wildfire burning in Artana. Photo: AFP

Spanish troops intervened on Tuesday as a wildfire near the eastern city of Valencia spread to a nature reserve.

Spanish king 'concerned' about political deadlock
Spain's King Felipe is concerned about Spain's lack of government. Photo: AFP

The monarch is beginning a fourth round of talks with party representatives to try and agree on a government.

The Local list
Five brilliant ways to beat the crowds in Barcelona
Escape the crowds of tourists for some more relaxed locations in the city. Photo: Quique Garcia / AFP

As the summer tourists begin the swarm over the city, discover some of Barcelona's more hidden gems...

Family warns of painkiller risk after Irishman dies on holiday
Billy Smyth died after taking the painkiller Nolotil. File photo: AFP

Relatives of an Irishman who died after being prescribed a common painkiller in Spain have spoken out to warn other holidaymakers of the danger.

Police bust gang selling fake holiday rentals in Barcelona
The gang put fake adverts for holiday apartments on different websites. Photo: Ajay Suresh/Flickr

Spanish police have busted a gang who have been advertising fake holiday apartments in Barcelona.

7 reasons why grandparents in Spain are simply the best
Photo: 3dom/Flickr

As Spain celebrates Grandparents' Day, The Local takes a look at what makes Spanish abuelos so special...

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Travel
Barcelona bans Segways from tourist clogged waterfront
National
Police issue guidelines as Pokémon craze sweeps Spain
National
Another dodgy art restoration raises alarm in Spain
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Watch: Man in wheelchair zooms past Barcelona traffic
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Woof! How to find dog-friendly beaches in Spain
Travel
Tourist sparks bomb scare by locking suitcase to park bench
Technology
Five brilliant apps to help improve your Spanish
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Top ten tricks to survive the Spanish summer
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Travel
Off the beaten track: 14 best kept travel secrets in Spain
International
Keep calm and wait and see: Advice for expats post-Brexit
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Features
Top 10 Spanish treats to keep you cool in summer
National
'I've had best time ever' insists American gored in bull run
Health
How to avoid heatstroke when Spain starts to sizzle
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
International
Champion of expat property rights in Spain awarded gong
National
Scorchio! Heat warnings issued across Spain
National
Brits demand dual citizenship for expats in Spain post Brexit
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Sport
Spanish matador gored to death in the ring
Lifestyle
Eleven types of men you might typically date in Spain
National
Spanish police rescue British teen trapped by dad in house for two years
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
Seven burning questions for British expats about Brexit
Technology
Six free apps to simplify your summer in Spain
Six important things we learnt from Spain's repeat elections
Politics
Rajoy claims right to form government after poll win
3,294
jobs available