A judicial measure established to protect a victim of sexist violence it can also be broken by the internet. This was established yesterday by the criminal chamber of the supreme court after studying the case of a man sentenced in Seville to nine months in prison for skipping the legal ban on communicating with his ex-partner. He did, according to the resolution confirmed by the Supreme Court, writing a message on his public profile on the Google+ social network, now extinct.
The Supreme Court, which will make its sentence public with all its arguments in the coming days, explained in a statement on Tuesday that "social networks can be an optimal space to break precautionary measures of removal or prohibition of communication." To date, as this newspaper explained in this report, the Spanish courts and tribunals had extended the validity of these protection and restraining orders to the internet and new technologies. But the Supreme Court had yet to unify its doctrine on this matter.
The case studied yesterday by the criminal court, in full, came from Seville. A court of violence against women in Seville had imposed a ban on a man from contacting his ex-partner "by any means, including the internet." The car was notified to him in September 2014 and almost two years later, with the measures still in force, he began to write messages dedicated to his ex-partner on the wall of his public Google+ profile, the social network launched by Google in 2011 and disappeared in 2019 after failing in its attempt to compete with Facebook.
In these messages, the condemned man regretted not being able to spend the Christmas holidays with his children, but he also sent messages to his ex: "I'm waiting for your call, please" or "I can die of disgust to find out what my son has. He's fine now, isn't he? I've been like this since Thursday without knowing anything," among others. He did it, according to the Justice, knowing that his ex-partner also had an account on this social network and that she received notifications about these texts that she wrote, even if she did not send them directly or by private message.
The criminal court 1 of Seville imposed a sentence of nine months in prison for a continued crime of breach of precautionary measure, and that sentence was confirmed in 2020 by the Provincial Court of Seville. That resolution, which has now been ratified by the Supreme Court, endorsed the possibility that a court order for the protection of a victim of sexist violence could be broken through a social network like Google+. He rejected one of the defendant's main allegations, which went through stating that he never wanted his words to be read by his ex "but rather published them as personal reflections on his private wall, like a kind of diary, to which the complainant had access like anyone."
The Seville judges already established then that these messages did not reach the victim's inbox without further ado. "He sent the messages to the defendant with the knowledge that the system was going to send them privately," the judges said. The messages had a "direct and very personal tenor", which allows us to deduce that there was an "intention". In addition, these messages were shared "privately" and, the judges said, "as such, we can only understand that the accused sent them particularly to the complainant and with the knowledge that they were going to reach them." Therefore, the prohibition of contact with her imposed by a court was skipped.
The statistics compiled by the General Council of the Judiciary reveal that judges implement thousands of protection measures every year for victims and complainants of sexist violence in our country. Last year, according to data from the governing body of the judges, the courts launched more than 22,000 communication prohibitions both in a precautionary manner and in the field of protection orders. And the constant use of communication technologies has led the Spanish courts to have to adapt their jurisprudence on the crimes that involve the violation of these orders and sentences.
An example is that of the case studied in 2020 by the Provincial Court of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The judges confirmed a three-year prison sentence for a man who threatened his ex-partner with "tearing apart" his loved ones through a WhatsApp status, messages that users can upload for their contacts to see but that is not sent to none in particular. That threat, through the WhatsApp states, became for the judges a "public announcement" of their intention to harm the victim and her environment.
This consideration also extends to acts that do not include words or threats. The Provincial Court of Palmafor example, established in this sentence that a friend request through Instagram could violate a judicial prohibition of communication, and therefore a crime, by constituting an "act of communication" that established contact between the victim and the aggressor.
In another case, studied by the Provincial Court of Madrid In 2017, a man was convicted of leaving a "like" on his ex-partner's Facebook account, with which he was prohibited from communicating. According to that resolution, whose rapporteur was Vicente Magro, today a magistrate of the Supreme Court, a "like" can violate this mandate since the order is not to communicate "in any way" with the victim.
In the coming days, the arguments with which the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court endorses that one of these precautionary communication prohibitions can be broken through social networks, and not only in person or by phone, will be made public. For now, the statement from the Manuel Marchena room only explains that they dismiss the condemned appeal by the Court of Seville and "concludes that social networks can be an optimal space to break precautionary measures of removal or prohibition of communication."