The desperate process to try a repeat pickpocket


Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 11:21
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The desperate process to try a repeat pickpocket

Y.K. stole four items of clothing from the Lefties store in Plaça Universitat de Barcelona. The Urban Police caught him red-handed with two trousers, a jacket and a jacket with a total value of 83.96 euros. Y.K. he is 26 years old and is a habitual thief with drug addiction problems who roams the center of Barcelona in search of wallets, mobile phones and clothes to resell. The Mossos and the Urban Guard already know him and he has accumulated a multitude of arrests. The robbery at the Lefties store took place on October 15, 2022, and a year and a half later, he still hasn't been tried. This real case to which La Vanguardia has had access highlights the slowness with which justice approaches cases of little complexity.

The delay in judging 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. This reform of the Penal Code punishes with harsher penalties criminals who act repeatedly and accumulate at least three convictions for minor offences. However, the inclusion of this assumption makes a simple case end up agonizing in court for years. For this reason, the Bar Association of Barcelona, ​​together with other institutions, such as the Barcelona City Council, is calling for a legal amendment that allows the law to be more effective in combating multiple recidivism. "The rule has a good spirit, but it does not take into account how daily legal practice works", stated the dean of the college in an interview in this newspaper.

When they arrested Y.K. for having stolen the clothes, as it was a minor crime of theft (old misdemeanors), it was the same agents of the Urban Guard 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 are held from Monday to Friday in two courtrooms in the City of Justice. The room 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 because the penalty he faces is less than two years in prison. The policemen who catch the criminals and the security guards of the establishments where the theft has been committed are paraded as witnesses. The system works with agility. In a matter of ten minutes, the trial is held and the sentence is handed down with the imposed penalty. 24 cases are judged 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 able to judge, so the rest pile up in the courts and a traffic jam is created.

On May 8, 2023, the court that was on duty was the court of inquiry number 29 in Barcelona. Before holding Y.K.'s trial, the judge reviewed the Justice Department's records system and found that the defendant had more than three convictions for theft. In this case it was necessary to apply the aggravating factor of multiple recidivism, so that the theft of the four pieces of clothing became a less serious crime and the investigating judge could not try it, because it is no longer competent , but had to open an investigation process (preliminary proceedings) and, once closed, refer it to a criminal court to judge Y.K.

The new reform transforms a minor crime like this into a less serious one, which can result in prison terms. The crime is aggravated when at least three thefts have been committed and, in addition, the value of what has been stolen exceeds 400 euros. This means having to search the criminal record system for the value of previously stolen objects, information that does not always appear in the registry. This forces the judges to request the judgments handed down by other courts to see if the amount does appear there, which causes the whole process to be delayed for months. This is what happened in this case. The criminal record did not state the value of the objects that Y.K. he had stolen in the past, so it was necessary to request the courts to send the previous judgments to explore whether the value of the stolen objects appeared.

Y.K. accumulates 36 firm convictions, most in Barcelona, ​​but others in the Basque Country and Madrid, so it was necessary to request the corresponding courts to send the judgments to the Barcelona court to find the amount of the stolen objects and to know if he could apply the 'aggravating multirecidivism. A very slow process to try 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. Multi-recidivists are not always located because they usually carry false documentation. In this case, the police searched for the accused until they discovered that he was in Quatre Camins prison to serve several sentences for a crime of robbery with violence and twelve thefts. To answer before the court for the theft of the four items of clothing, he was summoned to testify by videoconference on June 13, 2023. The Bar Association appointed him an ex officio lawyer. With everything prepared, assisted by a lawyer and with the connection made from prison, the accused made use of the right not to testify. The judge, given the information provided, which was the same as he had on the first day, closed the investigation and left the case pending trial. If it had been a minor crime, the case would have been tried in ten minutes. Because it is a less serious crime, the process takes a year, even though the evidence is the same. The prosecutor presented the indictment on October 23, 2023, almost a year after the events were committed. Claim for Y.K. a sentence of five months and 29 days in prison. The defense lawyer submitted the defense brief and now the criminal judge needs to set a date for the trial. Today it is not yet known when it will be.