Government tackles Spain’s justice system

27th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

Reforms to be implemented include reducing paperwork for judges and allowing secretaries to have more responsibilities.

27 October 2008

MADRID - Court secretaries will gain more powers while judges will see their workload cut under a draft judicial reform currently being prepared by the government to grease the cogs of Spain's creaking justice system.

The measures, which were made public at the weekend, have been disclosed just days after judges and judicial secretaries held a three-hour nationwide strike in protest at sanctions imposed on a Seville judge and secretary whose negligence allowed a convicted paedophile to remain free and kill a five-year-old girl.

The protesting judicial workers on Tuesday blamed the mistakes in the case on the "excessive workload" in courts across the country.

Spanish courts currently handle 8.3 million cases a year, two million more than a decade ago. However, the number of judges and judicial secretaries, at 4,543 and 3,976, respectively, has barely changed. The government believes that the key to reducing the overall workload is to make the bureaucracy-laden judicial system more efficient.

The forthcoming reform will therefore seek to cut through the red tape, allowing secretaries to carry out some of the more mundane paper-shuffling tasks that are currently performed by judges.

In addition to being able to close cases where both parties reach an out-of-court settlement and schedule hearings, secretaries will no longer have to be present during hearings because digital recordings of proceedings are to be more widely used. That will not only free up secretaries to perform other tasks, but will dramatically cut down on paperwork.

[El Pais / Jose Manuel Romero / Expatica]

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