Crimes against historical heritage in the Penal Code

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Without a doubt, Spain stands out for being a country with a large amount of goods that represent the historical heritage of the country. Due to this, the Spanish Penal Code defines various articles focused exclusively on the special protection of all assets that have historical value.

What is meant by historical heritage?

In simple words, historical heritage is defined as the cultural legacy that we obtain from the past, enjoy in the present and inherit to future generations. In this sense, it is important to clarify that the heritage of a country is not limited exclusively to objects. That is, there are also natural spaces that are located in this group.

Crimes against historical heritage in the Penal Code
Crimes against historical heritage in the Penal Code

What is the historical heritage of Spain?

In accordance with what was mentioned before, the following can be defined as historical heritage in Spain:

 To the set of goods, both material and intangible that are considered of value to individuals or to society in general.

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In this sense, these assets have undoubted scientific, documentary, technical, cultural, bibliographical and historical value. For this reason, they comprise a large part of Spain's contribution to culture.

The particular protection that must ensure these assets is found in article 46 of the Constitution of Spain. Said article attributes to public powers the order to ensure the preservation and enrichment of all heritage. In this sense, all types of cultural, historical and artistic assets of the communities of Spain must be considered.

This precept is typified in different autonomous and national statutes. In addition, they are registered in different international agreements.

Article 46 of the Constitution of Spain defines:

Public powers have the duty to guarantee the preservation and evoke the enrichment of heritage. Considering thus, all assets of cultural, artistic and historical value of the Spanish communities. This, regardless of its judicial regime and its ownership. The law punishes actions that violate this wealth.

What assets make up the historical heritage of Spain?

In accordance with article 1.2 of Law 16/1985, on Historical Heritage, the properties that comprise it are:

· Objects and properties of historical, archaeological, artistic, paleontological, scientific, ethnographic or technical utility.

· Bibliographic and documentary heritage.

· Archaeological sectors and sites.

· Parks, gardens and natural spaces with anthropological, historical and artistic valuation.

· Those objects that are part of the ethereal Cultural Heritage, in accordance with what is determined by their particular legislation.

What are the crimes that threaten historical heritage?

Crimes that threaten historical heritage are classified in Title XVI. Specifically in Chapter II (Crimes related to historical heritage). It exactly covers articles 321 to 324 of the Penal Code.

We mention these crimes below:

· Demolition or serious modification of private buildings (Article 321).

· Infringement by public officials or authorities (Article 322).

· Damage to elements that are part of the historical heritage (Article 323 and 324).

However, in addition to this, crimes are recorded in other provisions of the Penal Code whose purpose may fall on these properties. In these crimes, damage to property assets is considered an aggravating circumstance.

The judicial property protected from all these crimes is the cultural and historical heritage. However, part of the precept includes that The protected judicial asset is the cultural value that the asset has beyond the heritage itself. It is proposed in this way because the aim is to safeguard its cultural and social work beyond the amount to which it is equivalent.

It consists of fraudulent crimes in which the general public is the passive individual. That is, it benefits from the cultural value of the assets that constitute the historical heritage.

Demolition or serious modification of unique buildings

The classification of this crime punishes those people who seriously demolish or transform buildings. This refers to structures particularly protected because of their artistic, monumental, cultural and historical value.

A custodial sentence of six months to three years is awarded. Likewise, it can be punished with a fine of twelve to twenty-four months. On the other hand, a special disqualification from exercising the trade or profession is carried out for a period of one to five years.

Additionally, the court may stipulate the restoration of the affected building by the author.

Violation of official or authority

Article 322 punishes any public official or authority who appropriately reports demolition projects or modifications of structures. This is in the case of private buildings with safeguards, despite being aware of their lack.

The penalty of imprisonment of six months to two years or a fine of twelve to twenty-four months is imposed. In addition, it is punishable by special disqualification from carrying out actions related to their profession or trade. On the other hand, the right to passive voting is inhibited for a period of nine to fifteen years.

Damage to elements that are part of the historical heritage

Damage caused to assets of artistic, cultural, monumental, historical value or to archaeological sites and their looting are punished. In this case, the penalty imposed on the perpetrator of the crime is imprisonment for a period of six months to three years. In addition, a fine of twelve to twenty-four months.

Likewise, a fine of three to eighteen months is awarded according to the relevance of the damages. This, in the event that the damage caused by serious negligence exceeds 400 euros.

How are the assets that constitute the historical heritage of Spain protected?

A list of common provisions is recorded in articles 338 to 340 of the Penal Code. These apply to all crimes mentioned in Title XVI. Each one is listed below:

· Article 338: particular aggravating factor of damage to a protected natural area.

· Article 339: taking actions with the aim of recovering the affected ecological balance. In addition, any other precautionary measure required by the active subject.

· Article 440: mitigation of punishment for voluntary recovery of the damage caused.

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