LATEST REFORM OF THE SPANISH CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT

An in-depth reform of the Criminal Procedure Act has recently been approved by Spanish Parliament, which could affect a number of corporate issues. The main innovations are:

Limits on judicial investigations: the former period of one month under the Article 324 of the Criminal Procedure Act has been replaced by new deadlines. Simple issues may be investigated for a period of six months, while the limit for investigating complex issues will be 18 months, both extendable for the same periods.

Consolidation rules: related actions may only be consolidated into a single case if certain conditions are met and when dealing with the cases separately is not more advisable. The fact that cases are related does not in itself justify actions being consolidated, which will occur only if the judge believes that joining them will prove beneficial to clarify the facts and determine liabilities.

The term "suspect" (imputado) is replaced by "party under investigation" (investigado): during the judicial investigation phase. After an indictment is entered, the "party under investigation" shall be referred to as the "accused" (encausado).

The end of "media penalties": an article has been included that regulates the protection of the image, honour and privacy of individuals during police arrest. For this purpose, the security forces will take measures necessary to put an end to the so-called "media penalties" suffered by many before a judgement is ultimately rendered.

Telephone tapping and Whatsapp: the recording and interception of telephone and electronic communications such as SMS and emails are regulated for the first time. Phone messages may be intercepted, but will always require judicial authorisation.

Police statements from unknown sources: a police statement made by an unknown source shall not lead to the opening of investigation procedures but rather administrative proceedings.

Confiscation: confiscation is extended to all of the assets of a convicted individual and these assets may be seized to recover the money defrauded as a result of crime.

Second instance: the High Courts of Justice will review appeals against the judgments delivered by the Provincial Appellate Courts (Audiencias Provinciales). The National Appellate Court (Audiencia Nacional), rather than the Supreme Court, will review appeals lodged against the judgments delivered by the Provincial Appellate Courts.

Cassation appeals: judgments that are not definitive – i.e., those that merely annul decisions delivered at first instance – are excluded from leave of cassation appeal.

The reform also provides that an appeal may be declared inadmissible by means of a "succinctly grounded" unanimous resolution delivered by the members of the court.