The Ministry of Justice directed by Pilar Llop has spread these days through Twitter a series of instructions on how to annul criminal records once a sentence has been served. A possibility that has existed since the first draft of the current Criminal Code of 1995 and that various senior officials of Vox and Twitter accounts linked to the extreme right have interpreted as a government facility for sexual criminals or murderers to obtain Spanish nationality when it comes to a procedure that has been in force for more than two decades and that, in addition, was modified for the last time by the Popular Party in 2015.
The annulment of a criminal record is accessible to any convicted person who has served their sentence, but only by fulfilling certain requirements and after expiry of certain time limits that increase depending on the seriousness of the crime. For example, someone convicted of a felony will have to wait ten years from the completion of their sentence to request a expungement. This includes, for example, murderers sentenced to permanent reviewable prison but also anyone sentenced to more than five years in prison, a sentence of disqualification, the withdrawal of their driving license for more than eight years or the withdrawal of the custody.
It is a procedure that serves, for example, to be able to access any job where a certificate of absence of a criminal record is required, to obtain nationality or to renew a residence permit, as Justice explains in the controversial tweet. The department reports that, in addition, it has implemented “a robotization process that performs the automated cancellation of the criminal records of those convicted persons who have extinguished their criminal responsibility.”
Vox deputies such as Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, Agustín Rosety or Rocío de Meer, in addition to the president of the Santiago Abascal party, have taken to social networks to accuse the executive of teaching “rapists and other criminals how to hide their crimes ”. In the case of Abascal, he adds that “they are no longer just responsible. They are also accomplices” although a quick look at the Penal Code allows us to verify that it is a procedure that has been in the Penal Code since 1995.
It is not a current rule or any measure that the executive has recently put in place. The first current Criminal Code, launched in 1995 with the abstention of the Popular Party in Congress, it already included this possibility in these terms, which were maintained in the 2003 reform. And it was the Popular Party, with the absolute majority of Mariano Rajoy, which promoted its reform in 2015, toughening some aspects and facilitating others so that a convict could cancel his record once he has served his sentence.
The 2015 reform, which the executive carried out alone to impose, among other things, the reviewable permanent prison, modified article 136 of the Penal Code that regulates this possibility of canceling criminal records. The new text toughened the times that had to elapse from the completion of a sentence until the possibility of canceling the record: from 5 to 10 years of waiting without committing a crime in the case of serious crimes, for example. But it also simplified the procedures and facilitated access to this measure.
For example, it removed the obligation to obtain a favorable or unfavorable report from the judge or court that had signed the sentence of the interested party, which was previously included in article 136. It also removed the requirement of having paid compensation or civil responsibilities to the victims of the crime in order to access the cancellation of records, in case of not having been declared insolvent. The text itself explains that this article was modified to “facilitate the procedure for canceling criminal records, eliminating the requirement of the report of the sentencing judge or court and the requirement of proof of payment of civil liability or insolvency of the convict.”