Spanish justice moves at snail’s pace

The German owner of a property in Torrevieja (Costa Blanca) has been blocked out of his home since 1995, when neighbours built a wall that cut off his access to the street. Since then Walter Thiele and his family have had to use a sympathetic neighbour’s garden to get in and out of the property.

Having complained to the neighbours who built the wall without success, Thiele started legal proceedings in 1997, by filing a ‘denuncia’ with the authorities. A year later the authorities told him they had no record of his complaint, so he had to start again.

The civil courts did nothing until 2006, at which time they informed Thiele he had to pay the obligatory fee to proceed, something which he had already done in 2003, and could prove it. Finally, in September 2006, the courts ruled in favour of Thiele, ordering the neighbours to knock down the wall and pay all the legal costs.

Since then, nothing has happened, so Thiele has now filed a complaint with the European parliament and the European court of human rights in Strasbourg against the Spanish administration and legal system.

Just goes to show how slowly the legal system moves in Spain, not to mention how inefficient it is. Despite being in the right, this man and has family have had to climb through a neighbour’s garden for the last 13 years because the civil courts are ineffectual. There’s a lesson in this for the rest of us. When buying property in Spain, look at every little detail of a property and ask yourself ‘is there any risk that this might lead to trouble that might have to be sorted out in court?’ If so, steer well clear, as it could involve you in interminable, expensive legal proceedings that will make you rue the day you ever thought of buying property in Spain.

There’s a time element to justice that the civil courts in many parts of Spain don’t seem to appreciate. If justice takes too long, it’s not really justice.

This might also explains why more and more people are turning to European institutions for help with judicial or administrative problems in Spain. This is certainly the case with victims of ‘land grab’ and the coastal law (ley de costas). I hope they get somewhere, but I’m not holding my breath.