In Del Rio Prada v. Spain, the plaintiff is a Spanish national who was born in 1958 and is currently serving a prison sentence in Galicia, Spain. Del Rio Prada was convicted of various offences linked to terrorist attacks carried out between 1982 and 1987, amounting to over 3,000 years of incarceration. However, in Spain, under Article 70.2 of the 1973 Criminal Code in force at the time of Del Rio Prada’s sentencing, the maximum term to be served by a convicted person was 30 years. This rule was applicable even were multiple sentences were imposed in different proceedings as in this present case.
Pursuant to this rule, in November 2000, the Audiencia Nacional combined Del Rio Prada’s sentences and set a maximum term to be served. Thus the incarceration term was reduced from 3,000 years to only 30, and Del Rio Prada was scheduled to be released from prison on June 23, 2008.
In the midst of the plaintiff serving her sentence, the Spanish Supreme Court had departed from its previous case law concerning the remission of sentencing. The “Parot Doctrine” was implemented on February 28, 2006, when the Court decided that remissions of sentences were no longer to be combined to total a 30 year maximum per person, instead the maximum sentencing would be applied to the different counts individually. In other words, a maximum of 30 years per each count/sentence may be imposed. Had this law been in effect when the plaintiff was convicted, she would have most likely received a much longer incarceration rate. Accordingly, the Audiencia Nacional modified the plaintiff’s sentence and set the date for her final release on June 27, 2017, thus extending her original term by nine years.
Del Rio Prada appealed and argued that the law should not apply retroactively and that she should be released in 2008 pursuant to her original sentencing. A hearing was held on March 20, 2013, and on October 21, 2013, the Court rendered its final decision. “The European Court of Human Rights held: by fifteen votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention on Human Rights”. Furthermore, the Court unanimously stated that violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the Convention was violated. And finally by sixteen votes to one, the Court held that the State must ensure that the applicant be released at the earliest possible date. Do you agree with the Court that laws should not apply retroactively? What do you think about the treatment of Del Rio Prada? Do you think that her 3,000 years sentencing for terroristic acts should have been reduced to only 30 years in the first place? The new doctrine seems to be more justified, but applying laws retroactively is a dangerous road that the Court wisely decided not to embark on.