Spanish court trims sentence for one of 'Wolf Pack' rapists

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish court has reduced the sentence of one of the five rapists convicted in the landmark 2016 "Wolf Pack" case after applying a recent change in the sex crime law that inadvertently created a much-criticised loophole, the court said on Tuesday.

The new law on sex crimes, dubbed "only yes is yes", was approved in reaction to the public outrage caused by the case. But its unintended effect led to more than 1,000 imprisoned offenders having their sentences reduced, forcing the government to apologise to victims of sexual abuse.

Now, the top regional court in Navarra, in northeastern Spain, has reduced the prison sentence to one of the men involved in the gang-rape of a teenager at the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona in 2016 to 14 years from 15 years.

The decision can be appealed before the Supreme Court.

The "Wolf Pack" case stirred massive protests and calls for legal changes after the five defendants were initially convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse because the 18-year-old victim did not resist out of fear.

They were eventually convicted of rape by the Supreme Court in 2019 and sentenced to 15 years each.

The public outrage at the time led to several years of political debate that culminated in the approval of the new law classifying all non-consensual sex as rape.

However, it also set lighter minimum sentences for certain sexual crimes - the result of merging the crimes of sexual abuse and aggression - inadvertently benefiting some convicted criminals.

Since it took effect last October, courts have applied more than 1,000 sentence reductions, which led to the release of over 100 convicted sexual abusers.

Even though the amendment was later changed, in Spain, the most favourable criminal disposition benefits the defendant.

The conservative opposition made the 'only yes is yes' fiasco one of the centrepoints of its criticism of the Socialist-led leftist coalition government in the run-up to the July 23 election, which resulted in a hung parliament and could still lead to a repeat ballot.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro, editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)