The Minister council has approved this Friday, December 28, the preliminary draft of the Law for the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents in the Face of Violence which, among other measures, will expand the prescription period of the crimes of aggression and sexual abuse committed against minors: it will begin to count when the victim turns 30 years old. It is currently counted when the victim turns 18 and the crimes prescribe between 5 and 15 years later, depending on their severity.
The intention to undertake a legal change to extend the statute of limitations for these crimes was already advanced a few months ago by the Vice President of the Government, Carmen Calvo. Justice shuffled three scenarios: that those crimes were "imprescriptible" or that the prescription begins when the victim turns 50 or 30 years, finally choosing the latter option.
The extension of the limitation period implies the implicit modification of the Penal Code and it affects the most serious crimes committed against minors, in offenses related to the attempted murder, sexual crimes, aggravated injuries, habitual abuse and human trafficking committed against minors.
The normative draft, which modify 11 laws, establishes a very broad concept of violence that encompasses all forms of physical, psychological or emotional harm or abuse, including Assaults or sexual abuse, the physical punishment, the simple neglect or the Negligent treatment. All types of violence are punished regardless of the form of commission, including that carried out through information and communication technologies, as the Government emphasizes.
In addition, it hardens the compliance conditions of the convicted of sexual assault to minors, who they will not be able to access the penitentiary permits or the third degree until they have fulfilled the half the penalty. It also hardens their access to parole by preventing the judge from anticipating it by two thirds of the sentence.
The preliminary draft provides that the Security Forces of the State, of the Autonomous Communities and of the local entities shall have specialized units in the prevention and detection of situations of violence against minors. Likewise, measures will be adopted to avoid the secondary victimization of minors, such as the immediate adoption of provisional measures, the practice of any diligence that is not essential and the avoidance of any direct or indirect contact with the victim will be obviated.
New crimes against minors
The text includes a new catalog of crimes against minors and adolescents committed through the Internet and information and communication technologies, which includes the incitement to suicide, self-harm, the commission of crimes against freedom and sexual indemnity or the promotion or facilitation of eating disorders.
These new infractions are complemented by the reform of the Law of Criminal Procedure that allows the judge remove illegal content from web pages as a precautionary measure during the investigation of the case, as pointed out by the Ministry of Justice. In all sexual and trafficking crimes, the conviction will entail the disqualification for any profession or trade that involves regular and direct contact with minors.
Likewise, the criminal reform modifies the generic aggravation of discrimination to include in it the age, reasons for aporophobia or social exclusion or "any other reason based on a discriminatory prejudice".
The preliminary draft also includes other novelties that affect the Criminal Procedure Law: the text leaves in the hands of the legal representative or the Public Prosecutor the decision on whether or not a minor should testify in a trial. It also requires that witnesses who are relatives of the minor victim (until now dispensed) appear in court.
Finally, it forces the investigating judges to resort to the pre-constituted evidence – the one that does not have to be reproduced during the prosecution – when the injured party is under 14 years old. The judge or court that is in charge after the trial is obliged in general to Do not call minors to testify at the hearing except in exceptional situations.
The new measures also include the compulsory nature of initial and continuing education in the area of children's and adolescents' rights, and in violence against children and adolescents for judges and magistrates, members of the public prosecutor's career, lawyers of the administration of justice and judicial officials. Inmates convicted of this type of crime will have to attend specific training programs on these issues in order to avoid recidivism.
In the educational field, will provide schools with protocols of action against signs of bullying, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, gender violence and any other form of violence. All the centers must have a welfare and protection coordinator that will be responsible, among other aspects, for monitoring the correct application of the protocols that will contemplate how to initiate the procedure, the notification systems and the coordination of the professionals responsible for each action. .
In the health field, in coordination with the autonomous communities, a common protocol for health action where will be established what measures should be adopted if a case of violence is detected on a minor. The records relating to the care of underage victims of violence will be recorded in the medical record, which will allow a better follow-up of the cases that occur.
On the other hand, officials who develop their activity in primary care social services are recognized as public authorities and are empowered to adopt the necessary protection measures, coordinating the resources available in the territory.
Likewise, the preliminary draft contemplates the creation of Central Registry of Information on Violence against Children and Adolescents, which will collect the data collected by public administrations, the General Council of the Judiciary and the Security Forces.
In addition, the regulation proposes the preparation of the Strategy for the Eradication of Violence against Children and Adolescents and it incorporates measures of awareness, prevention, detection, and intervention in different areas, among which the sanitary, educational, judicial, security forces, or new technologies, among others, stand out.
Specifically, it establishes the duty of any person who notices a situation of vulnerability, risk or violence on a minor to communicate it to the competent authority; and if the facts could be constituting a crime, communicate it to the State Security Forces and Corps, to the Public Prosecutor's Office or to the judicial authority.
This duty is configured in a more demanding way for groups that, because of their profession, have regular contact with minors or carry out a protective function – health professionals, workers in educational centers, security forces and bodies- -. Also, the Organic Law of the Ombudsman to create a new adjunct specialized in violence against children and adolescents.
On the other hand, the entities that carry out sport and leisure activities with minors in a habitual way must have protocols of action for the prevention, detection and action in front of possible cases of violence and with the figure of the 'Delegate of Protection'.