SOME 50 convicted sex offenders have had their sentences reduced under Spain’s controversial ‘only yes means yes’ law, which was designed to put consent at the heart of sexual abuse cases but has had unforeseen consequences.
While no official figures have been put together across Spain, newspaper El Pais has come up with this total figure of convicts who have so far benefitted from the new legislation, which came into force in early October.
Just this week a court in Pontevedra reduced the prison sentence for a man who had regular sexual encounters with a 14-year-old girl, who ended up pregnant and had an abortion. He has seen his jail time cut from five years to four-and-a-half.
Meanwhile, the High Court in Andalusia has this week reduced the sentences for another four sex offenders, including that of a paedophile, according to news agency Europa Press.
Across the country, at least 12 sex offenders have actually been released from custody after having their sentence reduced sufficiently that they could be let go on time served.
The legislation was drafted by the Equality Ministry, which is run by minister Irene Montero of the leftist Unidas Podemos party, the junior partner in Spain’s coalition government.
Dubbed the ‘only yes means yes’ law, it defines any sex acts without clear consent as rape. It merges the crimes of sexual abuse and sexual assault, meaning victims no longer have to prove violence or resistance.
But problems have arisen because minimum sentences for certain offences have been reduced. Under Spanish law, any change to the minimum sentence for an offence can be applied retroactively, and judges usually rule in favour of the convict in such cases.
This has led to a flurry of appeals from convicted sex offenders, many of whom have been successful in seeing their sentences reduced.
Despite outrage among victims, members of the public and opposition parties, the Equality Ministry insists that the law does not need to be changed. The equality minister even went so far as to blame ‘sexist’ judges for not properly applying it.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party, the senior partner to Unidas Podemos in Spain’s coalition government, has also defended the legislation, but he has this week spoken about the possibility of making ‘technical adjustments’ to it given the unexpected consequences of the change.
In the meantime, the Supreme Court is expected to unify the criteria that should be used when applying the new law. For now, courts in different parts of the country have been interpreting it in different ways.
Until that happens, more convicted sex offenders are likely to see their sentences reduced, or will even walk free.
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