Spanish court orders compensation for gender victim’s family after Guardia Civil failed to protect her

A Spanish court ordered Wednesday the interior ministry to pay €180,000 in compensation to the family of a woman murdered by her abusive husband after her request for protection was turned down.

Spanish court orders compensation for gender victim's family after Guardia Civil failed to protect her
Photo: AFP

The woman in September 2016 asked police in the southern town of Sanlucar la Mayor near Seville for a protection order against her husband but the request was turned down because he had no criminal record and officers concluded she faced little risk.   

The following month the man, reportedly a former police captain in the Dominican Republic, stabbed his wife to death in the street in front of the couple's two children.

He committed suicide in May 2020 while serving a 28-year jail sentence for the crime.

Spain's National Court on Wednesday ruled that the Spain's Guardia Civil police force had provided “inadequate” protection to the woman and ordered it to pay €20,000 ($23,500) to each of her parents, and €70,000 to each of her two children, for “moral damages”.

“Social and institutional awareness of the importance of the problem of gender violence requires greater sensibility than that which was shown by the Guardia Civil station” in charge of the case, the court added in its ruling.

Spanish politicians have implemented successive programmes to address the issue of gender violence since 1997, when 60-year-old Ana Orantes was beaten, thrown over a balcony and then burned to death by her ex-husband after repeatedly complaining to authorities about his violent behaviour.   

She had been forced to divide her home with her husband on the order of a divorce court.

The Spanish parliament in 2004 unanimously approved Europe's first law that specifically cracks down on gender-based violence.    

It grants victims of gender violence free legal aid, set up special courts for domestic violence cases and allows public prosecutors to press charges even if the victim does not file a complaint.

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Spain bans visitation rights for gender violence defendants

Parents being prosecuted for gender violence will no longer enjoy visitation rights with children that are not in their custody under a Spanish legal reform that came into force on Friday.

Spain bans visitation rights for gender violence defendants
Photo: Georges Gobiy/AFP

The change affects any parent that is being prosecuted for an assault on the life, physical integrity, freedom, moral or sexual integrity of their partner or their children.

“No regime of visits or overnight stays will be set up, and if one already exists, it will be suspended in the case of a parent who is facing criminal proceedings,” says article 94 of the civil code.

It also applies to cases where a judge has accepted that there are “well-founded indications of domestic or gender-based violence”, it says.

But a judge could still authorise visits or contact “based on the best interests of the minor… following an assessment of the parent-child relationship,” it says.

The change does not affect those who have already been convicted of such offences, whose visitation rights are laid down in their sentence.

The reform was published in the official state bulletin at the start of June just days before police found the body of a six-year-old girl believed murdered by her father, who had snatched her and her baby sister in April.

Investigators believe the father — who had a history of domestic violence — also killed the toddler then committed suicide in a case that shocked Spain.

The six-year-old’s body was found on the seabed, wrapped in a bag weighted down with an anchor, but so far, police have not found any trace of the father and the missing toddler.

Since 2013, 41 minors have been killed by their fathers, or by a partner or ex-partner of their mothers, government statistics show, in a gender violence phenomenon known in Spain as “violence by proxy”.

READ ALSO: How the death of six-year-old Olivia is exposing Spain’s cruellest gender violence