The Constitutional warns against prison sentences for debts | Economy

Seat of the Constitutional Court.
Seat of the Constitutional Court.EFE

The Constitutional Court has issued a sentence in which it warns against imprisonment for debts. The ruling has upheld the appeal related to a person sentenced to six months in prison who had to serve a prison sentence for this type of reason. The convicted person challenged the court decision which, without hearing him beforehand, revoked the suspension of the execution of the sentence as a result of verifying, a year later, that he had not complied with the commitment to pay the sentence to the payment of 2,100 euros to the victim, who had been imposed on him by way of civil liability.

The sentence – for which Judge Cándido Conde-Pumpido was the rapporteur – maintains that in this case “the suspension of the prison sentence was revoked for having totally failed to comply with the condition of attending to civil liability, without the justification of the contested resolutions reach to justify the concurrence of the budget of the revocation, the unjustified non-payment, nor does it reflect having taken into account the solvency circumstances of the subject”. In this way, the Constitutional court understands that the court that ordered the arrest violated with its resolution the right to effective judicial protection in relation to the right to liberty and the right to process because they assisted the appellant.

The court of guarantees reasons that the revocation decision and the order of admission to prison to serve the short custodial sentence imposed was agreed upon without previously and personally hearing the inmate in an adversarial hearing; legal requirement provided for in the Penal Code for these cases. On the other hand, the order for the convict’s admission to prison was based exclusively on the breach of the payment commitment to which the suspension of the sentence had been conditioned, without assessing his real economic circumstances.

When analyzing the legal provision for a personal hearing prior to the revocation that was not complied with, the Constitutional Court recalls that, in accordance with the repeated jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the deprivation of liberty must be imposed or reviewed after a contradictory process, in equality of arms, in which the person subject to restriction of liberty is granted the possibility of making a statement about the specific grounds for said decision.


This obligation to hear the convict extends to the cases of revocation of the alternative forms of compliance with prison sentences, when it is necessary to evaluate their personal circumstances, the reasons that they give to justify the breach of the payment obligation or the presence of new elements that are relevant to determine the legitimacy of imprisonment.

He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.


As for the justification of the judicial decisions that have been annulled by the Constitutional Court, it can be seen that they do not comply with the requirement of reinforced motivation established in reiterated constitutional jurisprudence. The revocation judicial decision was based exclusively on non-compliance with the condition of paying civil liability, a commitment that the judicial body appreciates was assumed fraudulently, without real will to comply with it.

In the judgment approving the amparo, which had the support of the public prosecutor’s office, it is recalled that the law does not automatically tie this consequence to the breach of the payment commitment, but rather requires verification of the parallel economic capacity to satisfy it, so that the suspension of the penalty cannot be conditioned to the payment of a civil sentence if there is no real capacity to pay.

In short, the appeal for amparo is upheld on the grounds that the appellant was not previously and personally heard before revoking the suspension of the execution of the sentence, a time that was opportune to assert his personal circumstances. The ruling highlights that although the convicted appealed encouraging the judicial body to prove his economic incapacity and investigate his assets, this proposal was not responded to.

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