LEGAL SYSTEM

Penal code changes call for strict penalties for public corruption and inciting disorder

Stiffer jail sentences will be handed down to elected officials convicted of embezzlement

The Cabinet on Friday approved a long-awaited bill that aims to restructure the penal code with higher prison terms and stricter measures against government corruption, public disorder, sexual harassment and invasion of privacy.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón said that the changes will help improve Spaniards’ confidence in the legal system.

The bill, which will now go before Congress for debate, proposes jail sentences of up to 12 years for government officials who are convicted of embezzling more than 250,000 euros. Sentences from two to eight years will be handed down to those who steal more than 50,000 euros.

The changes also call for sanctions of up to one year in prison or fines for any party official who fails to adopt measures to control political financing.

The ruling Popular Party (PP) is currently ensnared in a corruption scandal involving its former treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who claims to have paid out hefty bonuses to PP officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, for nearly 20 years on top of their regular salaries.

The new measure also calls for heavier sentences for people convicted of public disorder, including those who incite violence or organize demonstrations via the internet.

Those who leak videos that violate the privacy of others could face up to a year in jail under the new code.

Sexual harassment and stalking has also been listed in the measure as crimes that could mean up to two years in prison.

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