About 270,000 sentences issued not put into effect
New report shows massive backlogs that reveal the dire state understaffed and unfunded justice system.7 May 2008
MADRID - Almost 270,000 sentences issued by courts across Spain had yet to be put into effect as of the end of 2007, according to a new report that underscores the dire state of an underfunded and understaffed justice system.
The study, conducted in December last year by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), uncovered 269,450 cases on which judges had passed sentence, but which had been caught up in the slow-moving wheels of Spain's judicial bureaucracy.
The CGPJ, the body charged with overseeing the justice system, noted that more than 70 percent of the sentences pending execution were for criminal offenses, and their failure to be put into effect means that convicted criminals remain free.
The report, which CGPJ members are due to debate in a special session on Thursday, serves as additional confirmation of the problems facing courts across the country, where there are mounting backlogs of unresolved cases.
The situation has contributed to several high-profile judicial errors in recent months, notably a Seville court's failure to imprison a convicted paedophile who was subsequently charged with killing a five-year-old girl.
"The situation in the courts is far from what can be considered normal," the report states.
The watchdog notes, for example, that the number of cases pending in Valencia is almost twice as many as the provincial penal court was designed to handle. In Barcelona, the overload runs to 52 percent, while in Madrid it is 21 percent more.
The backlog has recently been made worse by a strike for pay rises by judicial secretaries and other court workers in several regions earlier this year and by amendments to the Penal Code that class certain traffic violations as criminal offenses.
[El Pais / A. Eatwell / Expatica]