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CRIME

Panel begins probing child abuse within Spain’s Catholic Church

An independent commission that is to conduct Spain's first official probe into suspected sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church met for the first time on Tuesday.

SPAIN-ABUSE-CHURCH
With no official statistics on child sex abuse within the Church, Spain's El País newspaper began investigating allegations in 2018.(Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

Unlike in many other nations where the government or the Church itself has opened an investigation into such abuses, Spain has only recently made moves to follow suit with lawmakers in March backing the creation of an independent commission.

The independent panel is made up of 20 people, mostly experts, but does not include representatives of the Church.

Spain’s ombudsman, Angel Gabilondo, who is in charge of the probe, on Tuesday “presided over the first constitutive meeting” of the commission, his office said in a statement.

The aim is to “prepare a report on sexual violence within the Catholic Church and the role of the public authorities”, it said, indicating that the panel included 17 experts “with experience in victimology, in the care of victims and legal knowledge”.

There is no deadline for completion of the report.

The initial idea was that members of the clergy would be on the committee but Spain’s Catholic Church said it would not directly participate although it would “collaborate with the authorities, providing all available information about the cases under investigation”.

It believes the commission should be looking into cases involving the abuse of minors within all of Spanish society and not just the Catholic Church.

Long accused by victims of stonewalling and denial, the Spanish Church in February tasked a private law firm with an “audit” into past and present sexual abuse by the clergy, teachers and others associated with the Church.

With no official statistics on child sex abuse within the Church, Spain’s El País newspaper began investigating allegations in 2018.

It has so far counted nearly 1,600 victims.

In March, the Spanish Church said it had discovered more than 500 cases of child sex abuse through a complaints procedure launched in 2020.

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CRIME

Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

Spanish police have begun wearing body cameras to record their interactions with the public in a move aimed at ensuring greater security that is gaining ground in Europe and the US.

Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

The interior ministry said the bodycam was launched Monday and would be “rolled out on a gradual basis to all police officers”, without saying how many were involved in the initial stages.

Spain’s TVE public television said the tiny cameras were being attached to the officers’ uniforms and could be activated either manually or automatically.

The main Spanish police union JUPOL hailed the move on Twitter, saying it was in response to “a request that the union has been making”.

“It will guarantee security, both for us to avoid any kind of misrepresentation of our interventions, as well as for the public, who will be able to clearly see the police’s professionalism and that there is no abuse of power nor excesses,” union spokesman Pablo Pérez told TVE.

Forces in Europe and the United States are increasingly turning to such technology to boost transparency following a string of fatal shootings and other claims against police over the past decade.

“The cameras are being used under public safety protocols in order to record everything that happens in the event of an unwarranted offence during an operation,” Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska told TVE ahead of the rollout.

“If they are activated, it is to guarantee security and really be transparent so that the officers’ actions can be seen and checked,” the minister said.

“This means security for both the police and the public,” he added, suggesting that in time, they would also be available to Spain’s Guardia Civil rural police force.

France began trialling bodycams, known as “pedestrian cameras”, in 2013
before a gradual rollout in 2015 in a move welcomed by police, but greeted with scepticism by rights groups who said there was no guarantee they would be always activated.

Police in London and New York also began pilot schemes in 2014 with credit-card-sized cameras clipped onto their uniforms with the technology gradually deployed over the following years.

But the cameras have had mixed success. The absence of any legal obligation governing their use can also limit their scope to uncover police misconduct.

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