PUBLIC ORDER

Unions and political parties may be liable for protest violence

Interior out to stop vandalism during demonstrations

The Interior Ministry wants to hold unions, political parties and other groups criminally responsible if any of their members cause violence or vandalize property during demonstrations and public protests, EL PAÍS has learned.

Legal experts are looking at amendments to the Penal Code to help prevent future disturbances that could take place as the Popular Party (PP) government begins introducing its series of harsh austerity measures and cutbacks, especially in health and education.

Ministry officials also want to hold parents and custodians of children responsible in the event that their sons or daughters are caught committing violent acts or damaging property.

"It is our intention - and we have told this to the Justice Ministry - that damage to property caused by juveniles will be paid for by their parents and custodians," said Ignacio Ulloa, secretary of state for public security. "And if the culprits belong to a political party, union or any other group we will hold those organizations not only responsible for civil damages but also file criminal charges as well."

Spain saw some of its worst violence this year in Barcelona during the March 29 general strike, when small groups of protestors smashed windows, burned trash containers and battled with police who fired rubber bullets and tear gas at angry crowds.

The government of Mariano Rajoy intends to pressure unions and other organizations to take a firm stance with its members to help prevent any more such disturbances. It also wants to increase jail time for anyone resisting arrest.

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