In the article ‘Making a police report (denuncia) in Spain’, David Ruiz explained what a denuncia is and how to go about making one. In this article he takes us through the right and the wrong way of doing it.
Since 2010 I’ve been helping my clients as their interpreter when making police reports. There are several types of mistakes I usually encounter:
- Providing documentation that has nothing to do with the report. Here's an example. Let’s say you're reporting someone you know because he threatened you yesterday. Do not bring an email that this person sent you seven years ago claiming (even if it was in a hostile tone) an electricity bill was not paid by you when he or she was the president of the community. When something or someone is reported, only evidence related to the events must be provided. Nothing else.
- Not bringing the original passport and (if it applies) the NIE number or Spanish residency. This is very basic. How do the police know it's you the person reporting and not someone else? Your passport is your main form of identification in Spain. Take it with you, not only to make police reports, but for any official procedure.
- Not telling what really matters. Let's see. If you're going to report that your car has been forced open to steal a jacket and a handbag, don’t tell police that "your children, of whom you see very little, and who have a house and beautiful children, often have told you not to leave the car windows opened. And that in your country these things do not happen, because when you were young ...”. We must stick to the events: what, how, when, where, who, why, and provide evidence of your statement if possible. The rest is irrelevant.
- Not taking a professional interpreter to making the report. When I make official written translations of police reports, I notice sometimes, even without talking to the client, that the interpretation was not accurate; that it was very bad quality. This occurs in part because of what I mentioned in the previous point, and the speaking skills of an interpreter that possibly did not speak good Spanish (or English).
Case study (fictional example)
We have Neighbour A and Neighbour B, both from a European country other than Spain. The two neighbours live in the same community. In fact, both properties are next to each other.
They have certain friendship, until Neighbour B decides to put up a tent in is front yard. The tent blocks the sunlight towards Neighbour A’s property, and the walls of the tent make a lot of noise when it’s windy.
Neighbour A goes to see Neighbour B, who is in his the garden. Neighbour B refuses to remove the tent. A hot discussion sparks out and Neighbour B insults, disrespects and threats Neighbour A.
Another neighbour, let’s call him Neighbour C, witnesses the scene from his property. A few hours later, Neighbour A receives an email containing more insults and threats from Neighbour B.
How not to do it
Neighbour A decides to make a report at the Guardia Civil station, but he lets it go two weeks – wrong, the sooner it’s reported the better
Neighbour A does not take an interpreter with him to make the report – wrong, The Guardia Civil probably refuses to carry out the report. Or perhaps the officer can speak a little English and proceeds to do it. This leaves them to interpret events, possibly not very precisely since the officer is a public safety professional, not a interpreter.
Neighbour A has left his passport at home - wrong they can’t continue making the report anyway.
Neighbour A goes back home and, after he brings the passport, he realises that he has forgotten to print a copy of the email from “Neighbour B”.
Neighbour A has not spoken with Neighbour C, who witnessed all the verbal insults and threats. So, Neighbour A does not provide any witnesses.
Neighbour A does not remember all the insults and threats from Neighbour B, or the exact day or hour. It's been already 2 weeks.
Neighbour A does not even come back later to the Guardia Civil with Neighbour C, the witness, or even to deliver the email sent by Neighbour B. wrong - the report ends up in a simple statement where nothing can be proven, since there is no evidence to support the nature of the report.
How you should do it
Neighbour A goes to the Guardia Civil station the same day that he was verbally abused and sent the disrespecting / threatening email.
Neighbour A comes with an interpreter, as he does not speak Spanish and knows that in such a serious situation, it is better to have a professional interpreter siding with him.
Neighbour A takes his passport, NIE and / or Spanish residence with him.
Neighbour A prints out a copy of the email sent by Neighbour B. The paper has on top all the information related to the email (sender, recipient, subject, date).
Neighbour A also hands in a picture of the tent.
Neighbour A comes to the Guardia Civil station with Neighbour C, who witnessed the verbal abuse from his property.
After reading the case study that I have made up above, we can figure out that the most important aspects when making a police report in Spain are:
- Going immediately to the police / Guardia Civil station right after the events occur.
- Bringing your own interpreter if you do not speak Spanish, and don’t assume that the Guardia Civil speak English or that they will have their own interpreters, even though some stations do have their own ones.
- Identifying yourself correctly using your own passport, NIE and Spanish residence.
- Providing evidence including documents, photographs and witnesses if applicable. It is always better to bring as much as possible and let the Civil Guard determine what can be used, rather than not having anything as evidence.
About the author
David Ruiz is a professional and registered interpreter / translator and founder of Torrevieja Translation and Official Translators.
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