The Scottish taxi driver, Jim McBlane, facing a fine and even nine months in jail if he fails to attend court hearings in Palma which start in Palma next month, may have been presented with a solution yesterday. Spanish justice minister, José María Michavila, announced that his department intends to start using video-conference systems so that tourists falling victim to crime while on holiday in Spain will be able to give evidence at court hearings from their country of origin. José María Michavila revealed that his department is going to start working in conjunction with the National Tourist Commission on how best to introduce the proposed fast track court proceedings for cases involving holidaymakers. The justice minister explained that he has been in contact with the ambassadors representing the various key source countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and France, in Madrid and the response appears to have been encouraging. He is currently in talks with the Japanese in order to set up a centre in Japan from where tourists will be able to testify if need be. The Japanese have become popular targets of pickpockets over the past few years and Spain is working hard to improve its image on the Japanese market. Michavila said yesterday that the idea is to give tourists who have made a statement to police in Spain prior to the court hearing, the opportunity “if needed, to testify by video-conference.” The minister will be talking to all the various sectors involved with the aim of “increasing the protection of both Spaniards and foreigners on holiday in Spain.” The video-conference option is part of the national crackdown on crime, and the minister said that in essence, the fast track court reforms will mean that cases involving tourists will be dealt with within a period of 15 days. The authorities and administrations in all cities and tourist destinations have also been contacted to consider reforms that will also include criminals preying on tourists being held on immediate remand in prison. New tourist crime attention centres are also likely to be set up to control the night judges, prosecutors and the security services. However, the sweeping reforms may not come fast enough for Jim McBlane. He was on holiday in Alcudia with his wife five years ago when their hotel room was ransacked and two watches and a Swiss army knife stolen. The two thieves were arrested the following day and the stolen items returned. In February of last year, a letter in Spanish arrived at their home stating that he was required to appear at the Palma court hearing. He was unable to come to Palma because of a pre-booked holiday, but last week he received a summons and a warning that unless he comes to Palma next month, he will be prosecuted. “It's ruining our lives,” he said.

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