MADRID – The Spanish government has set up a special task force to repay the more than one million fines. These were issued to citizens during the coronavirus first alert. In addition, pending cases will be cancelled, sources told the Spanish news site Europa Press.
Following the Spanish Constitutional Court’s ruling – which declared the first alert unconstitutional, the government has set up a special team to refund and cancel the fines issued during the first lockdown. A special system is being set up for citizens to open a bank account for the transaction. A ruling on the second alert has yet to be made.
Apart from the tax authorities, representatives of the government, the Ministries of Economy, Finance and Territorial Policy are also involved. All autonomous regions have provided (sub) delegations. But with the exception of Catalonia and the Basque Country, as they have transferred their competence in this area. The Basque Vice-President and also Minister of Security, Josu Erkoreka, announced a transfer in October.
More than one million fines
On 14 March 2020, a royal decree declared Spain in a state of alert. State security forces and the corps, regional and local police were given the power to punish citizens who did not comply with the quarantine obligation. However, last July the Constitutional Court declared this measure unconstitutional.
According to data released by the Interior Ministry in March, 1,142,127 fines were issued across Spain during the first alert. This alert lasted from March 14 to June 21. And at least 220,296 in the second alert, from October 26 to May. This data was released a year after the first alert was declared.
The Ministry of Territorial Policy and Public Function updated the figure in May when it reported that government delegations and sub-delegations had already resolved 172,482 cases with penalties, 50.1% of the total. These are sanctions imposed by the national police, the Guardia Civil and regional and local bodies. The Citizens’ Safety Act and the stricter house arrest and fine provisions derived from it were known as la ley mordaza (the ‘gag law’).
Almost half a million requests
Of the 481,969 requests for repayment of fines processed, 172,482 did result in a sanction, 87,826 were transferred to other (regional and local) authorities. 54,193 cases are still under investigation and 11,206 applications have been closed. For the remaining 156,262 cases, the conclusion was that, given the facts, it was ‘not appropriate to initiate sanction proceedings for various reasons’.
Andalucia (195,986) and Madrid (184,517) were the autonomous communities with the most refund requests between 14 March and 21 June. Ceuta and Melilla had the lowest figures, with 9,472 and 4,199 requests respectively.
To cope with the large number of cases and the “disproportionate workload”, the Ministry of Territorial Policy announced in May that it would launch a programme to speed up the formal handling of fines. 235 staff members were tasked with determining whether or not to initiate the sanction procedure, taking into account the facts.
Read more about the Constitutional Court annulment