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The state attorney general, Dolores Delgado, has issued a decree on Wednesday rejecting that the maximum deadlines for judicial investigations should be set to zero, despite the intention of the Public Ministry. A report by the Technical Secretariat in late April argued that the royal decree regulating the return to normal justice establishes that these deadlines must be "restarted" and not just resumed.
This meant buying time for prosecutors in the investigation of anti-corruption causes such as Punica, Lezo, the Bárcenas papers or the investigation into the Pujol family's fortune.
Ultimately, this will not be the case and the macro-causes will have to be concluded within the established deadlines, discounting only the time that the deadlines have been suspended due to the state of alarm decreed by the coronavirus crisis. The decree confirms that the correct interpretation is that of the counter to zero, but that the royal decree is in the parliamentary process and could be modified, so that prudence things remain as they were.
Although the criterion affects all criminal cases opened in Spain, the attorney general stresses that this "duty of caution" pointed out "should be especially addressed in cases with an inmate and in procedures of special importance."
"As long as the rule is being processed by parliament as a bill by the emergency procedure -which may lead to a possible modification of its current wording-, and in order to also avoid any damage to effective judicial protection of the parties or the possible frustration of ongoing judicial investigations, the prosecutors will request the declaration of complexity of the procedures, their extension or the setting of a maximum term in accordance with the provisions of Circular 5/2015 [which is it continued until now], having to opt as a precautionary measure for the resumption of the calculation of deadlines, "the decree states.
Previous rejection of magistrates
The decree adds that the prosecutors "must comply" with these criteria and adopt the pertinent measures "to nullify" the decisions that they have already taken following the criterion that the deadlines began to run against them again.
The change in position comes after the intentions of the Prosecutor's Office were harshly contested in the legal world and, above all, already rejected by some magistrates. This is the case of the three criminal sections of the Las Palmas Hearing , which last week decided not to accept the criteria of the Prosecutor's Office and to opt, on the contrary, for the resumption of time limits.
"The procedural terms that have been interrupted by the state of alarm do not in any case start from the beginning," agreed the magistrates, who understood that the interpretation that the Public Ministry made of the royal decree was "in direct prejudice against the accused." .
Having maintained its intention, in addition to being aware of how the royal decree was in the Courts, the Prosecutor's Office even risked that the parts of the investigation undertaken outside the initially planned term would be annulled.
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