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Spanish PM apologises over sexual consent law reform loophole

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez attends a news conference after his meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at Palazzo Chigi, in Rome, Italy, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

(Reuters) -Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez apologised in an interview published on Sunday to victims of sexual abuse over a sexual violence law that included a loophole enabling at least 978 imprisoned offenders to get their sentences reduced or ended early.

The “Only Yes Is Yes” law, which arose partly as a result of public outrage over the so-called Wolf Pack case, centred on consent and was meant to resolve cases where defendants were convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse because victims had not resisted out of fear.

But because the new law carries a lower minimum sentence – the result of merging the crimes of sexual abuse and aggression – it has enabled some perpetrators convicted before it took effect to successfully seek reduced sentences or early release.

After the law was passed in October, sentences in 978 cases have been reduced and 104 prisoners have been released early as of March 31, the General Council of the Judiciary – the top body of judges – said last week.

“Some of these releases or reviews are not final, they can still be appealed. But in any case, there has been an undesired effect that we have to resolve,” Sanchez said in an interview with El Correo newspaper.

“If we have to apologise to the victims, I apologise to the victims.”

The issue has split the three-year-old coalition, with the Socialists keen to reform the law but their ruling partners Unidas Podemos resisting their suggestions.

Combating gender violence had been high on the coalition’s agenda since the “Wolf Pack” case, in which five men referring to themselves by that name were jailed for the lesser crime of sexual abuse in 2018 after gang-raping a young woman at the Pamplona bull-running festival in 2016.



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