Spain is still the most popular European country for British nationals to relocate, retire to, open a business or holiday in. The economic crisis in the United Kingdom is provoking more people to consider making big changes in their lives.

Giambrone & Partners can assist British nationals in all aspects of relocation to Spain but our lawyers strongly recommend that before taking any steps you gain a thorough understanding of your legal position, the differing laws and the cultural challenges, especially if you are considering starting up a business. The TOWIE actor Ellliot Wright opened a restaurant, Olivia's La Cala, in Marbella and has not enjoyed unmitigated success. Initially the restaurant was defaced and burnt down in an arson attack, which was very upsetting, but this has been surpassed by a shocking incident where the doorman, Jose Rafael Pisano Pardo, was seriously injured and lost his life when attempting to break up a fight between drunken British diners.

As with many situations involving tourists abroad, large groups of people gather and when alcohol or drugs are involved there is an increased risk of fights over real or imagined insults when inhibitions are lowered. In most countries fighting in public is considered a criminal offence, and those caught engaging in it will be arrested and face legal consequences that will depend on the severity of the incident, whether there were injuries and if weapons were used.

Gabriela Gonzalez-Cremona, senior associate in the Barcelona office, points out "there are two police forces in Spain, the Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), authorised by both the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of the Interior, and is military in its nature. The National Police (Policía Nacional) is a civilian force operating in urban areas." Gabriela further remarked "the Civil Guard is the force looking into the circumstances of Mr. Pardo's death."

Spain has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and there is a crackdown on the drunken rowdy behaviour of British tourists. Fighting and excessive drinking is no longer being tolerated and is far more likely to result in arrest than previously. Giambrone & Partners' criminal defence lawyers have frequently successfully assisted British nationals who failed to recognise that their behaviour in the UK may have attracted a telling-off and possibly a night in the cells but with no further action, in Spain it leads to arrest and criminal charges. Our lawyers firmly recommend that it is important to avoid getting into arguments or confrontations, including with the police as such behaviour could be construed as failing to cooperative with the police which is a criminal offence in Spain. The officer's word is all that is needed, no corroborating evidence is required, unless there is obvious evidence such as the existence of video surveillance cameras on the premises or that someone has filmed the events, and this filming is visible and determines that the person was not involved in the events being judged. If a situation looks as if it has the potential to end in violence, regardless of what triggered the confrontation it will not end well and it far better to walk away than in engage in an altercation.

If you are arrested you will be held for a short period of time whilst it is decided whether your crime was sufficiently minor to allow you to return home and face the consequences of your behaviour at a later stage, which can be up to a year. Do no assume that because you have been allowed to return home that the matter has ended. Also, on no account should you ignore a summons to a Spanish court, if you do you will be arrested by the British police and sent back to Spain. If it is decided that your crime is serious you will be brought before a judge.

It is mandatory to be supported by a lawyer when arrested, particularly if you do not speak Spanish. Our highly expert criminal defence lawyers can also help you if you have received a request to return to Spain to face charges which you did not realise you would receive. We have years of experience in presenting mitigating circumstances to the court and obtaining the release of our clients.

There are wider consequences to being arrested and charged with a criminal offence in Spain, in that as you will have a criminal record you may not be permitted to enter certain countries. It may also prevent you from being employed in certain sectors.

Gabriela Gonzalez-Cremona has been a member of the Barcelona Bar Association since 1990. She has a wide range of expertise in civil and criminal law and specialises in criminal defence. She has successfully defended foreign nationals that have been arrested in Spain and can provide initial assistance when an individual is taken into custody and ensure that their rights are maintained.

She is a member of the European Association of Economic Interest which collaborates between law firm across Europe to assist foreign nationals who visit or reside in Spain.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.