- A Barcelona court has acquitted five men of rape charges and instead sentenced them for lesser charges of sexual abuse after determining that their crimes did not fit the legal definition of rape.
- The court said that the 14-year-old victim was unconscious and therefore was not forced into sex through violence or intimidation.
- The case has sparked renewed concerns over Spain’s sexual offense laws, which critics say are outdated and fail to protect victims.
Men Acquitted of Rape
A court in Barcelona cleared five men of sexual assault charges on Thursday after determining that their crimes did not fit the legal definition of rape since their victim was unconscious.
Under Spanish law, a sex crime can only be classified as an assault or rape if the perpetrator uses violence or intimidation. Five of the six men accused of gang-raping a 14-year-old in Manresa have instead been convicted of a lesser charge of sexual abuse.
The Barcelona court sentenced the men to 10 to 12 years in prison and awarded the victim 12,000 euros ($13,400) in damages.
The sixth person was found not to have been involved in the assault and a seventh person, who was masturbating while watching, was cleared after being initially charged with failing to help the victim.
The attack was said to have happened at a party on October 29, 2016. The court was told the men were partying in an abandoned factory when the victim consumed drugs and alcohol and became unconscious.
They then took turns performing sexual acts on the teen, according to a statement published on the court’s website. In her July testimony, the victim said she remembered only part of that night, but said the main defendant, Bryan Andrés, told his friends they had “15 minutes each” to rape her. She also said he forced her to have sex while brandishing a gun, which turned out to be fake.
In a press release, the court said, “The sexual attack on the victim was extremely intense and especially denigrating, and in addition, it was produced on a minor who was in a helpless situation.”
However, the court ultimately said that the victim was “in a state of unconsciousness … without being able to determine and accept or oppose the sexual relations maintained with defendants, who could perform sexual acts without using any type of violence or intimidation.”
Because of this, the court said the case had to be classified as sexual abuse since “it has been proven that the victim, while the events took place … was in a state of unconsciousness.”
Ruling Draws Similarities to ‘Wolf Pack’ case
The decision reignited concerns over the way rape cases are prosecuted in Spain.
The Manresa case sparked protests similar to ones held in response to another ruling involving a group of five men dubbed “the Wolf Pack.” Those men were originally acquitted of rape and instead convicted of abuse. They were handed 9 years in prison, which sparked outrage across the nation.
However, after years of demonstrations demanding justice, Spain’s Supreme Court overturned the verdict in June and sentenced the men to 15 years in prison for rape.
That case was slightly different from the Manresa case in the sense that the controversy stemmed over the interpretation of the law and what constitutes intimidation. But regardless, both cases have thrust a spotlight on what many call a flaw in the legal system.
Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona even spoke out against the verdict on Twitter, calling it “outrageous.”
“I’m not a judge and I don’t know how many years in prison they deserve, but what I know is that this is not abuse, it is rape!” the mayor added.
Social media users have also been commenting on the case under the hashtag NoEsAbuseEsViolacion (It’s not abuse, it’s rape).
Lucía Avilés, the founder of an association of female judges, told the national news agency Efe that it was time to change the criminal code so that it was “understood that only a ‘yes’ means ‘yes’ and that consent must be given in a free, conscious and responsible manner.”
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, said at a weekly news conference that the government would not comment on the ruling. However, she hinted that the case could be appealed to the Supreme Court.
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”