The desperate process to judge a repeat pickpocket

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Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 10:21
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The desperate process to judge a repeat pickpocket

Y. K. stole four items of clothing from the Lefties store in Plaza Universitat in Barcelona. The Urban Police caught him red-handed with two pants, a jacket and a jacket whose value amounted to 83.96 euros in total. Y. K. is 26 years old and is a habitual thief with drug addiction problems who prowls around the center of Barcelona looking for wallets, cell phones or clothes to later sell them. The Mossos and the Urban Police already know him and behind him he has accumulated a multitude of arrests. The robbery at the Lefties store was committed on October 15, 2022 and a year and a half later it has still not been tried. This real case to which La Vanguardia has had access shows the slowness with which justice deals with cases of low complexity.

The delay in prosecuting Y. K. is due to the fact that he is a repeat offender and, therefore, the regulations that came into force in August 2022 must be applied to him. That reform of the Penal Code punishes criminals who act in a criminal manner with harsher penalties. repeatedly and accumulate at least three final sentences for a minor crime. However, the inclusion of this assumption causes a simple case to end up languishing in court for years. For this reason, the Col·legi de l'Advocacia de Barcelona, ​​together with other institutions such as Barcelona City Council, demand a legal modification that allows the law to be more effective in combating multiple recidivism. “The rule has a good spirit, but it ignores how daily legal practice works,” said the dean of the college in an interview in this newspaper.

When Y. K. was arrested for stealing the clothes, as it was a minor crime of theft (old offenses), it was the Urban Police officers themselves who summoned him for trial. He was due to appear on May 8, 2023, almost seven months after the robbery was committed. Trials for minor crimes take place from Monday to Friday in two rooms in the Ciutat de la Justícia. The courtroom is presided over by an investigating judge, guarded by a prosecutor and several officials. Most are held without the accused since he is not required to appear since the penalty he faces is less than two years in prison. The police officers who catch the criminals and the security guards of the establishments where the robbery was committed parade as witnesses. The system works with agility. In a matter of 10 minutes the trial is held and the sentence is handed down with the sentence imposed. 24 cases are tried each day in two courts. In total, 48 trials, which, however, are insufficient to absorb the demand. There are more cases than the system is capable of judging, so the rest accumulates in the courts, creating a traffic jam.

On May 8, 2023, the court that was on duty was investigation number 29 in Barcelona. Before holding the trial against Y. K., the judge reviewed the system of records of the administration of justice and realized that the accused had more than three final convictions for theft. In this case, the aggravating factor of multiple recidivism had to be applied, with which the theft of the four articles of clothing became a less serious crime and the investigating judge could not prosecute it but had to open an investigation process (preliminary proceedings). and, once completed, refer it to a criminal court to try Y. K.

The new reform transforms a minor crime like this into a less serious crime, which can lead to prison sentences. The crime is aggravated when at least three thefts have been committed and, in addition, the value of what was stolen exceeds 400 euros. This means having to search the criminal records system for the value of previously stolen items, information that does not always appear in the record. This forces judges to request sentences handed down by other courts to see if the amount does appear there, which means the entire process takes months. This is what happened in this case. The criminal record did not indicate the value of the objects that Y. K. had stolen in the past, so the courts had to be asked to send previous sentences to explore whether the value of what was stolen was included.

Y. K. has accumulated 36 final convictions, the majority in Barcelona, ​​but others in the Basque Country and Madrid, so it was necessary to ask the corresponding courts to send the sentences to the Barcelona court to see the amount of what was stolen and to know if The aggravating circumstance of multiple recidivism could apply. A very slow process to judge a simple theft of four items of clothing.

Since it was a less serious crime and there was an investigation phase, Y. K. had to be summoned to testify. Different addresses appeared in the system. Repeat offenders are not always located because they often carry false documentation. In this case, the police searched for the accused until he discovered that he was in the Quatre Camins prison serving several sentences for the crime of robbery with violence and twelve thefts. To respond to justice for the theft of the four items of clothing, he was summoned to testify by videoconference on June 13, 2023. The Col·legi de l'Advocacia appointed him a public defender. With everything prepared, assisted by a lawyer and with the connection made from prison, the accused took advantage of his right not to testify. The judge, in view of the information provided, which was the same that he already had on the first day, ended the investigation and left the case pending trial. If it had been a minor crime, the case would have been tried in 10 minutes. As it is a less serious crime, the process lasts a year, although the evidence is the same. The prosecutor presented his indictment on October 23, 2023, almost a year after the events were committed. He demands for Y. K. a sentence of 5 months and 29 days in jail. The defense attorney delivered her defense brief and now the criminal judge needs to set a date for the trial. Today, it is still not known when that will be.