The Constitutional studies whether an abuser can benefit from the delay of the victims in denouncing


Santiago Romero spared no expense to demonstrate who was boss at the Faculty of Educational Sciences of the University of Seville. According to Justice, this professor "made it clear that he was the one in charge of the department." He did it, among other things, by sexually abusing the professors in his department. Touching, phrases of sexual content, kisses and unwanted licks that he perpetrated, even in the presence of third parties and that cost him a firm sentence of 2 years and 8 months in prison.

Amparo Díaz, lawyer for one of the teachers harassed by the former Dean of Education: "The sentence confirms a structure of abuse of power"

Amparo Díaz, lawyer of one of the teachers harassed by the former Dean of Education: "The sentence confirms a structure of abuse of power"

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The case will be studied by the Constitutional Court, as anticipated Radio Seville. Not because of an appeal by the then dean, but by an appeal by the victims, who question that the Provincial Court of Seville lowered their sentence significantly by taking into account the undue delays in the process. A very important part of these delays took place between the opening of the process and the first sentence, but another part came from the year that the victims took to bring him to justice for his abuses. And that, as they denounce, goes against the jurisprudential trend based on the gender perspective to not hold a victim of sexual crimes responsible for not reporting immediately.

In this case, Romero's abuses lasted at least, according to the Seville Court, "from mid-2006 to mid-2010", although the last documented event occurred at the end of 2009, and the complaint was filed in January 2011. He was summoned to testify in May of that year and the first sentence in the case, in a criminal court in Seville, did not arrive until December 2016. The Seville Court, moreover, did not issue its own resolution until December 2019.

This was translated at a significant discount of the convictions for Romero. At first, the criminal court imposed a total of 7 years and 9 months in prison for three crimes of sexual abuse and another of injuries. But the Court of Seville left the sentence in 2 years and 8 months, somewhat less than half. The reason was that he was acquitted of injuries (1 year less) and his sentences for the crimes of abuse fell drastically due to the undue delays in the process, a mitigating factor that the judges took into account as a highly qualified mitigating factor.

The magistrates of the Court of Seville explained the reason in their resolution: "The complaint was filed approximately two years after the commission of the last act imputed to the appellant and there are relevant stoppages in the processing of this case not caused by the actions of the accused" said the judges. The sentence highlighted, for example, that the case was ready for trial in June 2015 but that it took a year and a half to sit on the bench. The decision of the Seville Court itself did not come until the end of 2019.

The sentence of the Court of Seville explained that the Supreme Court usually puts the red line of the application as very qualified of this mitigating factor in the eight years of delay between the imputation and the conclusion of the trial. "For the estimation of this mitigating factor as highly qualified, in cassation rulings it is usually applied in cases that are held in a period that exceeds an approximate figure of eight years of delay between the imputation of the accused and the oral hearing of the trial" Said that sentence. In this case, he was charged in May 2011 and tried in March 2016, a little less than 5 years between those two moments. The judges recognized that the case was of a certain complexity but that the 10 years that had passed between the first episode of abuse (2006) and the issuance of the first sentence (2016) justifies this reduction.

The Constitutional Court is going to study whether this application of the mitigating factor of undue delay is appropriate in cases of sexual violence, where it is common for victims not to report the facts immediately without this affecting the credibility of their accusations. It is something that the Supreme Court has said on several occasions, for example in 2019 when he said that "they cannot be turned against them when they are slow to report, because they even feel stigmatized for doing so, and, in many cases, even guilty, when they are victims, not guilty."

The victims denounce that the Court of Seville, by applying these undue delays as highly qualified, "puts the responsibility for the delays on the victims", which violates their right to effective judicial protection in relation to non-discrimination on the grounds of sex and their right to integrity. The Constitutional Court understands that the case, it says in a statement, "is of special constitutional significance" to give rise to a process of "internal reflection" in the court of guarantees to clarify or change its doctrine. One of the possibilities is to incorporate the gender perspective into undue delays. "The need to incorporate, in cases like the present one, prosecution with a gender perspective, in accordance with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and by the Convention of the Council of Europe on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention)," it says in a statement.



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