One of the five men convicted in the high-profile Wolf Pack gang rape case in Spain has had his sentence reduced due to flawed rape legislation introduced after public outcry over the 2016 incident. The men, known as the Wolf Pack, assaulted an 18-year-old woman during Pamplona’s bull-running festival, recording the attack and sharing images on a WhatsApp group called La Manada. The case caused shockwaves in Spain, leading to nationwide protests and the enactment of the “Only Yes Is Yes” rape law, which emphasizes explicit consent for sexual activity.
However, the law contained a loophole that resulted in lighter minimum sentences for certain sexual crimes, as it merged the offenses of sexual abuse and aggression. As a result, 1,155 sex offenders have obtained sentence reductions, with 117 being released from prison. Feminists and left-wing politicians have criticized the recent decision by a court in Navarre to reduce the jail term of Angel Boza, one of the Wolf Pack rapists, from 15 years to 14.
Conservative politicians have blamed the left-wing government, which proposed the “Only Yes Is Yes” law. Boza’s lawyer, Augustin Martinez, stated that if an appeal fails to overturn the sentence reduction, he will seek similar reductions for the other four convicted rapists. The victim’s lawyer, Teresa Hermida, expressed her client’s deep pain and sadness upon hearing the news, emphasizing that any reduction in the sentence is distressing for her.
In 2018, two years after the attack, the Wolf Pack members were initially convicted of sexual abuse instead of rape, as the court ruled that the victim did not resist out of fear. This decision sparked widespread demonstrations across Spain, demanding harsher sentences and a change in the law, which at the time required proof of violence or intimidation for an offense to be considered rape. In 2019, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the initial ruling and sentenced the men to 15 years for rape.
Last year, Spain’s left-wing coalition government introduced the law on sexual consent, which redefined all non-consensual sex as rape. However, a loophole in the legislation inadvertently benefited some convicted criminals. Although this amendment was later rectified, the most favorable criminal disposition in Spain benefits the defendant. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez apologized in April for the harm caused to victims of sexual offenses.
The recent decision by the Navarre court to reduce Boza’s sentence has drawn criticism from feminist activists and left-wing politicians. They argue that blaming the “Only Yes Is Yes” law is misplaced, as the controversy surrounding the sentences does not address the issue of violence against women. Meanwhile, conservative opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo accused the government of treating sexual assaults lightly, undermining its claims to represent feminism.
Spain’s acting government spokeswoman, Isabel Rodriguez, stated that the government takes the interests of sexual violence victims seriously. Acting equality minister Irene Montero, who played a role in drafting the sexual consent law, blamed the judges for misinterpreting the legislation, a claim denied by the judiciary. Montero expressed her sympathy for the victim and reiterated the government’s commitment to providing reparation for all victims of sexual violence.
The ruling by the Navarre court can be appealed at the Supreme Court.