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CRIME

Dutchman appeals after decade in Spanish jail as DNA implicates Brit

A Dutch man who has spent ten years in jail for rape has finally had his appeal accepted by Spain's Supreme Court, after new DNA evidence implicated a British suspect.

Dutchman appeals after decade in Spanish jail as DNA implicates Brit
Archive photo: Shutterstock

Police arrested Romano Liberto van der Dussen in September 2003 in the resort town of Fuengirola on Spain's Costa del Sol, accusing him of beating and trying to rape three women.

A court in Malaga in 2005 sentenced him to 15-and-a-half years in jail for sexual assault, attempted rape, causing injuries and violent robbery after two of the victims and a witness watching from a window all identified him as the culprit.

Van der Dussen, who was 30 years old and living in Spain when he was arrested, has always maintained his innocence and his DNA was never matched to that found at the scene.

Van der Dussen on the left and Mark Dixie on the right

A courthouse in Fuengirola in February received a British police report that showed the DNA found at the scene of the attacks matches a genetic sample taken from a British man, Mark Dixie, who was living in southern Spain at the time.

Dixie is currently serving a 34-year jail sentence in Britain for the rape and murder of an 18-year-old model in London in 2005.

Spain's Supreme Court said the appeal included the DNA evidence “and as a consequence, it meets the criteria to be accepted”.

The ruling was dated November 12th, but was only made public on Wednesday.

Van der Dussen's case made headlines in Spain as well as the Netherlands, where a foundation which supports Dutch prisoners abroad, PrisonLaw, has raised thousands of euros to pay for his legal aid.

“I have been in jail for over 11 years for crimes I did not commit. I have been through an indescribable hell,” he said in an interview published in May in top-selling Spanish daily newspaper El Pais.

“During this time I have seen people get stabbed, others commit suicide, others get raped over unpaid debts…All of this has caused me irreparable damage,” he added.

CRIME

Shock as Spain tells foreigners how to cancel their criminal record 

Spain's Justice Ministry has caused outrage after it sent out a tweet explaining how foreign nationals can cancel their criminal record online themselves in order to gain Spanish citizenship. 

Shock as Spain tells foreigners how to cancel their criminal record 

It may seem like a dark joke sent out by a disgruntled civil servant, but Spain’s Justice Ministry has indeed informed the country’s 6 million foreigners – including those who’ve committed crimes in the past – how to wipe their criminal history from the system.

“Criminal records can be a problem when it comes to obtaining Spanish nationality or applying for or renewing residence permits,” the ministry headed by Pilar Llop tweeted on Sunday. 

“Here we explain step by step how to request the cancellation of criminal records,” the Justice Ministry went on to say, followed by a link to a video describing the process. 

In the video posted on June 7th 2022, which has so far more than 24,000 views, a narrator goes on to explain that through the digital transformation process that the Justice Ministry is currently undergoing, it’s possible for anyone to personally and officially delete their own criminal record.

“That means that your sentence can be cancelled without you having to apply for it,” the video stressed.

This reportedly applies to both criminal records and sexual conviction records.

Logically, the tweet has caused a mix of incredulity and anger on the Spanish twittersphere, with comments such as “they’re mad”, “is it a joke?”, “God save us” or “instead of kicking foreign criminals out they’re helping them”.

The truth is that the possibility of expunging a criminal record in Spain has already existed for 27 years, as has the option of a foreigner with a criminal record being able to obtain Spanish nationality.

What has changed is the possibility of an automated system allowing citizens, Spanish nationals and foreigners alike, to carry out the expunging process online themselves, rather than having to apply for the Justice Ministry to do it for them. 

What’s also novel, many would say alarming, is that Spain’s Justice Ministry has made this public knowledge to many more people in Spain after their tweet went viral. 

Artículo 136 of Spain’s Penal Code allows people with a criminal record to cancel it once a certain period of time has elapsed and if they have not committed any other felony since the initial sentence. 

For those with minor sentences, the criminal record can be removed after six months whereas for serious crimes (5+ years in prison) the wait is ten years, higher if they’re charged with more than one crime. 

However, there doesn’t appear to be any lifetime prohibition from expunging criminal records for those who have committed the most heinous crimes, meaning that foreign rapists, murderers and paedophiles could technically cancel their criminal records if they met the aforementioned conditions and become Spanish nationals.

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