Spain cuts gang rape convict’s prison term under botched law

One of the Wolf Pack rapists uses a loophole in ‘Only Yes Is Yes’ law, which set lighter minimum sentences for certain sexual crimes.

Angel Boza, a member of the group known as La Manada ("The Wolf Pack"), exits a courthouse in Seville, Spain
Angel Boza's case shocked Spain, sparked national protests and led to the passage of the 'Only Yes Is Yes' rape law [File: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters]

Madrid, Spain – One of the five men convicted of gang rape in Spain’s notorious Wolf Pack case has had his sentence cut under botched rape legislation that was introduced after a storm of protest over the 2016 case.

The men attacked an 18-year-old woman at Pamplona’s bull-running festival, filmed it and shared images of the attack on a WhatsApp group they called La Manada, or the Wolf Pack.

The case shocked Spain, sparked national protests and led to the passage of the “Only Yes Is Yes” rape law, which focuses on gaining explicit consent for sex.

However, the law contained a loophole that set lighter minimum sentences for certain sexual crimes – the result of merging the crimes of sexual abuse and aggression.

So far, 1,155 sex offenders have secured sentence reductions, of which 117 have been released from prison.

Angel Boza

Feminists and left-wing politicians condemned Tuesday’s decision by a court in Navarre in northern Spain to cut the jail term for Angel Boza, one of the Wolf Pack rapists. His sentence was reduced from 15 years to 14.

Conservative politicians blamed Spain’s left-wing government, which proposed the “Only Yes Is Yes” law.

Augustin Martinez, the lawyer for Boza, said on Thursday that if an appeal fails to strike down Tuesday’s sentence reduction, he will seek similar reductions for the four other Wolf Pack rapists.

“Boza is evidently pleased that his sentence has been cut. This happened directly because of the new law,” he told Al Jazeera.

Enormous pain

Teresa Hermida, the lawyer for the victim in the Wolf Pack case, told Radio Euskadi: “My client has received this news with enormous pain and sadness. It is not that it is a reduction of a year. A reduction of one day would be a pain for her.”

Hermida said she would appeal against the decision of the court and blamed the new sexual consent law for allowing the sentence to be cut.

In 2018, two years after the attack, the five members of the so-called Wolf Pack, were convicted of the lesser charge of sexual abuse, not rape, because a court ruled the victim did not resist her attack out of fear.

The case prompted demonstrations across Spain in 2018 demanding tougher sentences and a change in the law, which at the time required prosecutors to prove violence or intimidation had been used for an offence to constitute rape.

In 2019, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the original decision and jailed the men for rape instead of sexual abuse, raising their sentences from nine to 15 years.

Last year, Spain’s left-wing coalition government brought in the law on sexual consent, which reformed the criminal code to define all non-consensual sex as rape.

The loophole

However, a loophole in the law meant that the legislation benefitted some convicted criminals.

Even though this amendment was later changed, in Spain, the most favourable criminal disposition benefits the defendant.

In April, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez apologised for the harm caused to victims of sexual offences.

Sofia de Roa, a feminist activist in Madrid, said the judges’ decision this week to cut Boza’s sentence did not help the victim.

“It is unfortunate, painful and very sad, especially because the one who needs reparation is the victim and going through this type of process does not help,” she told Al Jazeera.

She insisted it was not right to blame the “Only Yes Is Yes” law.

“The controversy over the sentences is not a central issue, nor does it resolve anything to do with the violence against women,” she said.

‘A laughing matter’

Left-wing politicians blamed judges for cutting sentences.

“The robed Rubialeses of the Navarre court have decided to reduce the sentence of one of the rapists of the Wolf Pack,” Pablo Echenique of the far-left Podemos party posted on social media on Tuesday, likening the judges who cut Boza’s sentence to the former head of the Spanish football federation Luis Rubiales.

Rubiales has been engulfed in a scandal over allegations he gave an unsolicited kiss to a player on the Women’s World Cup team last month. He resigned from his position as president on Sunday.

Alberto Nunez Feijoo, the leader of the conservative opposition People’s Party, said the consequences of the “Only Yes Is Yes” law make a mockery of the government’s claims to represent feminism.

“No other government has treated sexual assaults as more of a laughing matter than this one,” he said.

Isabel Rodriguez, Spain’s acting government spokeswoman, said on Tuesday that the government takes the interests of victims of sexual violence seriously.

Spain’s acting equality minister, Irene Montero, who helped draw up the sexual consent law, has blamed judges for misinterpreting the law, a claim that the judiciary has denied.

“This decision by the [court] is very painful, especially for the victim. We take care of your pain and know that all victims deserve reparation,” she said about Boza’s sentence reduction.

The ruling of the Navarre court can be appealed at the Supreme Court.

Source: Al Jazeera