Offenses against historical heritage in the Penal Code


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Without a doubt, Spain stands out for being a country with a large number of goods that represent the historical heritage of the country. Due to this, the Spanish Criminal 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 for future generations. In this sense, it is important to clarify that the patrimony of a country is not limited exclusively to objects. That is, there are also natural spaces that are located in this group.

Offenses against historical heritage in the Penal Code
The crimes against historical heritage in the Penal Code

What is the historical heritage of Spain?

In accordance with the aforementioned, the following can be defined as historical heritage in Spain:

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

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

The particular safeguard that must ensure these assets is found in article 46 of the Constitution of Spain. Said article attributes to the public powers the order to ensure the preservation and enrichment of all heritage. In this sense, all kinds 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 conventions.

Article 46 of the Constitution of Spain defines:

The public powers have the duty to guarantee the preservation and evoke the enrichment of heritage. Thus, considering all the 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 attempt against this peculio.

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.

· The bibliographic and documentary heritage.

· Archaeological sectors and deposits.

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

· 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 violate the historical heritage are typified in Title XVI. Specifically in Chapter II (On crimes related to historical heritage). It covers exactly articles 321 to 324 of the Penal Code.

These crimes are mentioned below:

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

· Violation 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 precepts of the Criminal Code whose purpose may fall on these properties. In these crimes, the damage to the assets of the patrimony 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, it seeks 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. In other words, 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 penalizes those people who seriously demolish or transform buildings. This refers to particularly sheltered structures because of their artistic, monumental, cultural and historical value.

A custodial sentence of six months to three years is awarded. In the same way, it can be punished with a fine of twelve to twenty-four months. On the other hand, special disqualification from exercising the trade or profession is proceeded with 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 penalizes any public official or authority that promptly reports demolition projects or structural modifications. This in the case of private buildings shelters, despite being aware of their lack.

The sanction of imprisonment of six months to two years or a fine of twelve to twenty-four months is imposed. In addition, he is punished with special disqualification to carry out actions related to his 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

Impairments caused to assets of artistic, cultural, monumental, historical value or in 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. Also, a fine of twelve to twenty-four months.

In the same way, 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 imprudence exceed 400 euros.

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

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

· Article 338: particular aggravating circumstance of damage to a protected natural space.

· 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 the penalty for voluntary recovery of the damage caused.

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