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Spain's new penal code: key talking points

The Local/AFP · 21 Jan 2015, 15:58

Published: 21 Jan 2015 15:58 GMT+01:00

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Spain's ruling Popular Party passed the country's new penal code in the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, without the help of the country's major socialist opposition party, the PSOE. It must now be passed in the senate, where the PP enjoys an overwhelming majority. 

Here are several key points of the reform which has been over a year in the making.

'Permanent prison' 

Under the new penal code, those convicted of serious crimes such as regicide or the murders of foreign heads of state can be sentenced to a form of life imprisonment. These prisoners will initially be sentenced to 25 to 35 years, after which time the sentence will be reviewed to see if inmates are ready to return to society.

Serial killers, members of organized criminal gangs, those who commit genocide and those who commit crimes against minors will also fall under this regime.

Opponents have criticized this reform which they argue goes against the spirit of the constitution and its focus on preparing prisoners for reintegration into society.

Illegal party financing and corruption

Under the bill anonymous donations to political parties above €50,000  ($58,000) are banned.

The law also calls for fines equivalent to three to four times the amount of money that was illegally donated.

If the donations surpass €500,000 — or just €100,000 if the money came from a foreign body — jail terms ranging from six months to four years could apply.

The bill also stiffens penalties for public workers found guilty of fraud or influence peddling.

The main opposition Socialist Party said the reform was "completely insufficient" since those who donate less than €500,000 will not go to jail. It points out that in the so-called "Gurtel" case, a massive bribes-for-contracts scheme that allegedly existed at the heart of the Popular Party, none of the accused donated more than €500,000.

Finally, the new laws will give judges great powers to seize assets if they believe there is sufficient evidence these originate from illegal activity. Those charged with these crimes will also have to return money taken from the public purse before being granted parole.   

Public order crimes

Under the reform, anyone found guilty of inciting crimes against the public order "through any means" can be handed a jail sentence of between three months to a year.

Penalties for public order crimes carried out as part of a group will also be stiffened.

Throwing a rock during a protest could be punished with a jail term of up to six years for example, while the penalty for threatening a police officer at a demonstration will also be hardened.

No teachers with terrorist backgrounds

This change is designed to stop people convicted of carrying out terrorist activities with the Basque separatist terror group Eta from working as classroom teachers.

Sexual consent

The age of consent will be raised from 13 to either 15 or 16. This has yet to be finalized and may be altered during the bill's passage through the senate. This reform is part of a broad plan approved by the Spanish government to protect children from abuse and exploitation.


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Crimes which cause domestic animals undue harm will be punishable with prison sentences of three months to one year under the new penal code, as will sexual exploitation. However, there will be no punishment for those who organize events such as cockfighting and dog fights. 

Expulsion of Europeans

Spain will have the right to expel European citizens if those people pose a serious risk to public security or safety.

New crimes

Among the new crimes listed in Spain's revised penal code are organizing a forced marriage, sexual harassment, and the unauthorized distribution of images of a person obtained without their consent.  Spain will also adopt European laws on child pornography, the sexual exploitation of minors and human trafficking.   


The government will now be obliged to inform the parliament every three months about pardons granted or rejected.

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

The Local/AFP (news@thelocal.es)

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