ANYONE involved in a fraud case in Spain will agree with top judge Carlos Lesmes when he says that the current Criminal Procedural Act is only fit for ‘chicken thieves’.
He is right. Spain is, and will be for a long time, the conman’s paradise: boiler rooms are operating off Fuengirola and Torremolinos to perpetrate their disgusting frauds; individuals like Nigel Goldman, Frances Stein or John Doust (all with a criminal past) are free citizens after cheating fellow Brits out of hundreds of thousands of euros; Nigerian scammers raking in millions from their flats in Madrid and Malaga, knowing they will only do two nights in police cells if caught. And so on.
Admittedly, the criminal system is inadequately equipped to deal with major fraudsters, conmen and corrupt politicians. But so are judges, given the selection process that churns out inexperienced 25-year-old judges faced, on arrival in their court, with anything from a rape case to a complex financial dispute.
These young judges have not had their moral solvency, reputation, background or even mental state checked out. As a result, lawyers end up dealing with silly, political or socially-biased, inconsiderate and even corrupt judges.
Strangely though, our system is far more flexible than other EU countries in that the prosecution service does not have the monopoly on criminal prosecution. It is actually possible for a private individual to go ahead with a trial even when the prosecution service drops the charges. In fact, the system has an even rarer case: it allows for a prosecution only at the petition of the plaintiff, i.e. private offences (serious defamation, calumny).
As it is not anticipated that the process of selection and training of judges will change soon, we do hope that chicken-thieves are all jailed quickly so that we can get on with very-damaging white-collar crime.