New law may result in dismissal of hundreds of thousands of court cases

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ONE OF the last pieces of legislation of the current government was the passing of the Criminal Procedure Act in October which requires the processing of simple criminal cases within six months or 18 months to process more complex ones, extendible in some cases up to three years, and also imposed the need to review all existing cases to see if they have expired.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Consuelo Madrigal, recently sent out a request to her staff throughout Spain instructing them to provide a figure for the number of cases the new law will affect.

Whilst on the face of things, this may appear to be a fairly straightforward requirement, the vagaries of the Spanish system of bureaucracy means that not only is there no shared database between judges and prosecutors,the case files themselves have not in the main been put onto any computer which means that each file will need to be reviewed manually.

Although there is no absolute total of the number of cases that have to be reviewed, various estimates put the total at between 600,000 and 700,000 all of which have to be at least looked at and commented on by early June 2016.

Any that are not reviewed and completed by that time will have to be thrown out, unless the next government decides to ‘tweak’ the law. 

Some of the cases could be as old as 10 years or as recent as a few months and there will be a combination of relatively trivial cases and very serious ones, which if overlooked will become nullified.

Various newspapers and judicial groups in Spain have not only campaigned against the law but have even called for the resignation of Ms Madrigal as it is believed that the actual work will be impossible to carry out within the timescale allowed, plus of course new cases will be added on a daily basis.

Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist says “the law is an ass – an idiot” and in this case, there may well be some truth in his statement.

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