A RECENT investigation into the sanctions imposed during the first COVID-19 State of Alarm has revealed that almost 80% have yet to be processed.
The investigation, carried out by Spanish media outlet 20 Minutos, showed that of the over one million fines given out for breaching COVID-19 restrictions, nearly 900,000 remain at the hands of autonomous administrations unprocessed.
The administration process on the sanctions was split between the central government, who were in charge of processing ‘civil disobedience’ claims, for example breaching curfew or public exercising during home confinement.
The second type of sanctions were for breaking sanitary codes for example not wearing masks, social distancing and gathering in groups.
These were taken care of by the respective municipal authorities.
According to figures given accessed by the Spanish press, Ministry of Territorial Policy has processed a total of 161,702 fines for ‘civil disobedience’ from between March 14 and June 21, with 67,292 in progress.
This is compared to the official figure of 1,142,127 total sanctions handed out across the board during that period.
This would mean then that a total of 913,133 sanctions either remain at the hands of local authorities to process or are unaccounted for.
Various local governments were contacted and responses were sparse, with many claiming that the processing is underway.
Of those that did respond, Andalucia is the community that has processed the most, with 60,000 completed, followed by the Canary Islands (34,828) and Castilla y León (24,732).
Madrid also claimed to have processed a total of 5,614, in a system that the councillor for the PSOE and the head of the processing department assured was operating in a ‘timely and efficient manor.’
These limited responses pose another issue according to Alberto Dorrego, president of the Administrative Law department of the Madrid Bar Association.
“Many of these fines could become invalid due to the nature of the sanctions.” said Dorrego.
“The first problem is that many of the fines given out were not properly defined, for example there was a case of a man who was fined for walking his dog too far during quarantine.”
“This is neither civil disobedience or a breach of the health law of 2011, so neither would normally stand in a court of law outside of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This has posed a headache for many municipal authorities who do not have the facilities to process these ambiguous fines, leading to extended processing times.
These delays could also potentially lead to many of the fines expiring, as according to the Public Health Law of 2011, these types of fines cease to be valid after 12 months.
The spokesman of the SUP Police Union, Carlos Morales, told 20 Minutos that “many of these sanctions are being allowed to expire, although some others are running their course.”
“During the pandemic the authorities were under staffed and over saturated with files to process, we did not expect the volume that we got.” said Morales.
“Whilst there is nothing that we could have done about the amount of files we had to process, more could have been done since to speed up the processing, such as the hiring of temporary staff.”