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Five Men Cleared Of Gang Rape Because Teenage Victim Was Unconscious

CONTENT WARNING: This article details sexual assault.

Five men in Spain have been acquitted of rape on the grounds their 14-year-old victim was unconscious at the time, and sentenced to the lesser crime of sexual abuse.

A Barcelona-based court ruled the men were guilty of the lesser crime of sexual abuse, sentenced them to 10 to 12 years and fined them 12,000 euros ($A20,000).

It ruled their act could not be considered sexual assault since the girl was unconscious after consuming alcohol and drugs and so they did not need to use violence or intimidation, a requirement for a rape conviction in Spain.

Protesters outside a court in Barcelona held signs that read, "It's not abuse, it's rape." Photo: AP

Spain's deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo said while her government does not comment on court decisions, it has set as a priority a modification in the law to make clear that consent is necessary for sexual relations to occur legally.

The attack occurred in the town of Manresa, near Barcelona, in 2016 when the girl and the men went into an abandoned factory to drink.

Women in Spain protest in support of the now 17-year-old victim who was gang raped by five men when she was 14. Photo: Jesus Merida/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The court said that since the victim was unconscious during the attack, she "could not accept or reject the sexual relations" and the men "could carry out those sexual relations without the use of violence or intimidation".

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau and other left-wing politicians and feminist groups have condemned the ruling, as well as clamouring for the law to be strengthened in the victims' favour.

"An unconscious 14-year-old girl was gang raped. I am not a judge and I don't know how many years of prison they deserve, (but) what I do know is that this is not abuse, it is rape!" Colau wrote on Twitter.

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The five men who joked about the assault in a Whatsapp group were cleared of rape but convicted of the lesser crime of sexual assault.

A similar 2017 ruling sparked widespread protests when five men were found guilty of sexually abusing a woman but acquitted of rape for an attack in Pamplona.

Spain's Supreme Court later overruled the lower court and convicted them of rape.

If you would like to speak to someone confidentially about sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If you are in distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Feature Image: AP