Start of main content

Criminal liability in the management of the Covid-19 crisis

| COVID-19 / News | Criminal Law

In the light of the ongoing lawsuits, an analysis is made of the types of criminal offences in which the action or omission of the Government or the Autonomous Communities in the management of the crisis could be subsumed

In recent weeks, several media outlets have reported on the presentation of various complaints, essentially by health and social care personnel, because of the decisions taken prior to the declaration of the state of alert and after it. In the light of the aforementioned complaints, we analyse the type or types of criminal offences in which the action -or omission- of the State Government or the Autonomous Communities in the management of the health crisis caused by Covid-19 could be subsumed.

It is important to emphasize the previous distinction because March 14th 2020 is the time frame to assess the conduct of the Executive, while at first must analyse the omissions related to the prevention and detection of cases of infection among the population prior to the declaration of the state of alert and, on the other hand, after having been declared, what actions have been taken by the Administration to respond to the health crisis caused by the spread of the virus and the high number of infections and deaths, especially among health professionals.

Consequently, the action or omission carried out by the relevant State or regional authorities could provisionally constitute the crimes of reckless homicide (article 142 of the Criminal Code), reckless injury (article 152 of the Criminal Code) and occupational health and safety (article 316 et seq. of the Criminal Code).

An example of the above can be found in the sector of health professionals, who have filed a complaint against the President of the Government and the Minister of Health before the Supreme Court for an "alleged negligent act" in the distribution of defective masks to the health workers "putting at serious risk the health and integrity of the health workers, and especially the doctors, who have used such a product with the conviction of its suitability and in the good faith that should be presumed of those who have such high responsibilities".

It can therefore only be concluded that the management of the health crisis, in terms of the distribution of materials for the protection of these professionals, has generated arguments to consider the possible commission of an offence against health and safety at work insofar as Article 316 of the Criminal Code punishes those who "do not provide the necessary means for workers to carry out their activity with adequate health and safety measures, thus seriously endangering their life, health or physical integrity

Obviously, each case must be the subject of a specific study in the list of particular circumstances of the victims and their families in order to determine not only the court that must investigate the case, but also who to prosecute.

In our opinion, and notwithstanding the above, we understand that there are sufficient indications to consider, at least in this first stage, the viability of the complaints presented, and those that may be presented in relation to these facts.


For further information, please contact:

José María Rebollo


Read the article in Expansión

End of main content