Minister denies Spanish justice system is in crisis

9th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Justice Minister says failure to execute 270,000 sentences is not indicative of a crisis, but announces series of measures to combat backlog of sentences.

9 May 2008

MADRID - Justice Minister Mariano Fernández Bermejo on Thursday announced a raft of measures to get Spain's justice system back on track, but denied that the failure of courts to execute 270,000 sentences is indicative of a "crisis".

"There is no generalised chaos or collapse," Bermejo told reporters in a press conference. "It's not an anomaly that sentences take years to put into effect."

The justice minister was responding to a report published this week by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Spain's top judicial watchdog, which highlights the backlog of sentences awaiting execution at courts across the country. Most affected penal courts, meaning that many convicted criminals who should be behind bars remain free.

A recent spate of tragic judicial errors, coupled with the effects of a recent strike by court workers, has further inflamed public sentiment over the state of the justice system.

Having denied that a serious problem exists, Bermejo highlighted a package of new and old initiatives to make the justice system more efficient. The measures include hiring 6,000 more court workers, opening 15 new penal courts across the country and creating a central registry of court orders so judges can be made aware of all sentences pending against a defendant.

In addition, a new IT system is due to start and will be on trial later in May. The system will hopefully help dig the justice system out from under reams of paperwork, bringing it into the 21st century.

"One of this government's main priorities this legislature is to modernise the administration of justice," Bermejo said.

Meanwhile, the CGPJ announced that it will create a team to monitor progress on executing the 270,000 sentences that were still pending at the end of last year.

[El Pais / A. Eatwell / Expatica]

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