Sex offenders who do not go to prison: what is behind the judicial agreements on sexist violence

After the two cases of sexual aggressors who have avoided jail in exchange for compensation, a restraining order and a sexual education course, there is an agreement between the parties. They are the so-called consent sentences, a tool contained in the law applicable to all crimes, although not in all circumstances, which are usually demanded by the defense in order to reduce the sentence, but which also require the 'yes' of the victims and of the the prosecution. In the case of Esteponawere two police officers who sexually abused an 18-year-old girl; in Murciaa day laborer was raped and assaulted by her boss.

As occurs in all acts of conformity, the aggressors acknowledged the facts and accepted the penalties that both the Public Prosecutor's Office and the private prosecution requested. And in both cases these sentences were for two years, so the defenses requested their suspension and the judges admitted it. Thus, none of the three aggressors will have to go to jail, although they will serve several additional sentences.

Different jurists assure that judicial agreements in crimes of sexual violence are not a majority, but a possibility that can be reached at any moment of the process as long as the requested penalty is less than six years. "Generally the accused knows that the evidence harms him and if he asks for compliance, it is usually because they point to a more than probable conviction," says Ángela Alemany, a lawyer from the Themis Women Jurists Association.

In these cases, the ruling is final and will prevent the trial from taking place, an element that, according to the experts, is key to understanding why there are victims who opt for it. "They want to avoid remembering and reliving the situation they suffered and the stress that the processes entail, in which their testimony will be questioned or they will meet the aggressor. Get around that revictimization plays an important role", explains Alemany. Lucía Avilés, magistrate of the Provincial Court of Barcelona, ​​agrees with her, who sees "fundamental" the need to "want to finish everything as soon as possible and not go through the process of trial", in the one who must "expose before people who do not know something so intimate".

The founder of the Association of Women Judges alludes to the fact that the judicial system is "always hostile" to the victims, but even more so if "sexist actions are given" by legal operators that end up resulting in "institutional violence". Added to this is the fact that "sexual violence has been mediated" in recent years, so wanting to avoid public exposure "can also play a role." "There are women, moreover, who have already gone through an emotional recovery process and facing it again means reopening a wound," she insists. But also the duration of the judicial procedures, which can last between two and five years, can make them end up making the decision.

Even so, the limited data available suggest that it occurs in few cases. According to a recent study by the Antigone research group of the University of Barcelona, sentences for conformity represent 7%. "There are victims who seek to avoid going through it, but others want to hold the trial, enter the courtroom and explain to the State what they have suffered, that they be recognized and that it have consequences because it has also had many consequences for them," says lawyer Paula Narbona, who forms part, together with Montserrat Solé and Miona Roch, of the Carla Vall office specializing in sexist violence.

In addition, the experts consulted assure that conformity is not usually a usual strategy of the defenses, which on many occasions see possibilities for the accused to be acquitted, something that, according to this report, occurs in 40% of the processes. But in the event that the victims are boys or girls, legal settlements tend to increase and stand at 20%, according to the study. Another report prepared by Themis He put them at 14%. In this type of complaint, it is very common for the aggressors to be known or from the same family environment as the minor: they make up 84% of the total, according to Save the Children.

That the aggressor and the victim maintain a prior relationship is precisely one of the elements that becomes important when we speak of conformity in cases of gender-based violence in the sphere of the partner or ex-partner, in which, according to Avilés, the agreements "are more common". "You have to take into account that there is an affectivity and it is a very complicated situation. The women do not have a spirit of punishment or revenge and many times they prefer not to go to prison, what they want is for the violence not to continue, to get out of the situation as soon as possible and to be believed, that what they have experienced be recognized" Germany explains.

For Narbona, the fact that on many occasions the accused is the father of their sons and daughters is key, which means that "they can agree to agreements that in another situation they would not accept" because "women tend to be very sorry to think that they are going against their father, they feel responsible and guilty and sometimes they prefer to avoid it". But, in general, "it depends a lot on where the victim is in the personal and recovery process," adds the lawyer.

"We can find women who denounce and are still living with their partner, in a very initial and vulnerable situation, so reaching a conformity can mean for them that everything ends quickly and that they are protected," continues the expert, who puts on the table also how compliance can constitute "reparation for the victim". "This must be given a lot of validity because the aggressor is acknowledging that everything that appears in that sentence is true. That, for someone who has normally had a hard time recognizing herself as a victim and whom he has questioned so many times, is very important".

After the rulings of Estepona and Murcia were made public, the prosecutor of the delegated chamber for violence against women, Teresa Peramato, advocated carrying out a legal reform that would allow evidence to be pre-constituted in cases of sexual assault, that is, that the statements be recorded once and used during the rest of the procedure to save them "the ordeal" of the process.

The experts, for their part, point out that conformity is "a good tool" that, in addition, "implies that there has been good instruction", in the words of Avilés. "It implies that there is solid evidence and that, if the trial were held, there would be a good chance of ending in a conviction." But they all demand that the system "make sure that it is not a mere almost automatic procedure in which the aggressors go, sign, take a course and that's it... We must ensure that there is real and comprehensive reparation for the victim, follow-up and, in short, that they are going to try to make this aggressor stop being an aggressor", emphasizes Narbona.

This is also referred to by the magistrate, who alludes to the fact that the court cannot refuse to accept the conformity, but it can question the request for the suspension of the prison sentence that the defense usually makes, which "should not be applied automatically". She also points to the Prosecutor's Office, without which the pact is not viable. "We must all assess all the circumstances: the nature of the act and its seriousness, if it is really repairing the victims, how the mitigating factors are applied, how the case has been investigated or if the legal qualification is in accordance with the facts," she points out. .

In fact, in the case of the Estepona aggressors, who were policemen, there was a particular vote that opposed the suspension of the sentence arguing that it reveals a "pronounced criminal dangerousness in its perpetrators", who carried out a "very planned action" as public servants. The magistrate rebels against the statement that they made an effort to repair the victims with the payment of 80,000 euros in compensation. "Nothing is further from reality", he assures him before the fact that his parents did it to guarantee his provisional freedom. In addition, he warns that the fact that everyone agrees to suspend the sentence, an argument used by the court, does not exempt him from making his own analysis.

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