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Amusing Italian Court Cases

Funny Tales From Italian Courts

Each country has legal practices that seem strange to outsiders.  Here are tales from Italy's legal system.

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Unusual Italian Regulations

Off to Italy this summer?  Then do try to stay on the right side of the law.  As Steven Spielberg has just discovered, even movie directors with 85-metre yachts and Gwyneth Paltrow in a bikini can blot their copybooks.  Spielberg had to pay €172 (£150) after taking a speedboat too close to a beach at Porto Liscia in Sardinia. But there are many other ways to fall foul of the authorities:

  • In Eraclea, near Venice, it's illegal to build sandcastles on the beach. They "obstruct the passage", apparently.
  • In Lerici, on the Italian riviera, you must wear more than just swimwear on your way to and from the seaside. Once back at your lodgings, you must not hang your towels out of the window to dry them.
  • The island of Capri also insists that holiday-makers dress modestly in the street. Quietly, as well: noisy shoes such as clogs or wooden-soled sandals will land you in trouble.
  • Castellammare di Stabia, south of Naples, has outlawed miniskirts, low-cut jeans and too much cleavage. Offenders face a €300 fine. Also forbidden: swearing in public, lying on benches, climbing trees and walking a dog on too long a leash.
  • In Lucca, in Tuscany, you must not feed pigeons in the town centre. (Cesena, on the Adriatic coast, extends the ban to feral cats.)
  • In Eboli, you'd better check your wallet before kissing anyone in a car. The maximum fine for such a transgression is €500.
  • In Rome, it's forbidden to eat in the street in the historic centre.

Italian Jeans Genes
Two threads of Italian DNA where walking down the street.
One says to the other do these genes makes me look fat?

Court Verdicts that Shocked Italy

Remember, wherever you are in Italy, if you're a man you must not grab your crotch ostentatiously, even for the time-honoured purpose of warding off bad luck - such as visiting a country where almost everything is prohibited.

Earthquake Fault of Scientists
Six Italian scientists were found guilty of multiple manslaughter for underestimating the risks of a killer earthquake in L'Aquila in 2009.  Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images.

On Monday, seven Italian seismologists were sentenced to six years' jail for manslaughter for not predicting an earthquake that hit the city of L'Aquila in 2009, killing 300 people.  It's not the first verdict that has caused jaws to drop there.

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Other Bizarre Italian Court Decisions

It's not just the seismologists who were jailed for not predicting an earthquake. This nation has a long history of bizarre legal decisions

Women wearing jeans cannot be raped
In February 1999 an appeal court overturned the rape conviction of a 45-year-old man after noting his 18-year-old victim had been wearing jeans. "It is common knowledge," ruled the court, "that jeans cannot even be partly removed without the help of the person wearing them ... and it is impossible if the victim is struggling with all her might."  [Will and Guy hope that modern Italian judges are more enlightened].

Judge orders father to pay 32-year-old daughter pocket money
Eight years into her degree in philosophy, Marina Casagrande, 32, was still living at home and took offence when her father tried to halt her €350-a-month allowance. So did a judge, who ordered her dad to keep up the payments and hand over €12,000 in arrears.

You cannot say "You don't have the balls"
Italy's highest court of appeal this summer decided it is crime to tell someone "You don't have the balls" after a lawyer sued his cousin for hurling the insult. In its ruling, the court said the insult implied a "lack of determination, competence and consistency - virtues which, rightly or wrongly, continue to be regarded as suggestive of the male gender".

Marriage annulled owing to husband being a mummy's boy
Vatican judges are called upon to annul marriages by couples who do not want to divorce since they would not then be allowed to remarry in church. Annulments are supposed to be issued only in exceptional circumstances, but popes often rail against their judges for accepting the dodgiest motivations, including, in 2006, the fact that one husband was too attached to his mother.

The Deaf Italian Bookkeeper

A Joe Tomato, a mafia Godfather finds out that his bookkeeper, Giuseppe, has cheated him out of $20,000,000

A strange thing, Giuseppe is deaf. That's the main reason Joe hired him in the first place.  Joe's thinking was that as Giuseppe could hear nothing, so he would not have to testify against him in court.

When the Godfather goes to confront Giuseppe about his missing $20 million, he takes along his lawyer who knows sign language.

The Joe tells the lawyer, "Ask him where the money is!

The lawyer, using sign language, asks Giuseppe, Where's the money?

Giuseppe signs back, "Non capisco." The lawyer tells the Godfather, "He says he doesn't know what you are talking about"

The Godfather pulls out his 'equaliser', puts it to Giuseppe's head and says, "Ask him again, where he stashed the greenbacks, or I'll shoot him!"

The lawyer signs to Giuseppe, "He'll shoot you with that pistol if you don't tell him."

Giuseppe trembles and signs back, "OK! You win! The 20 grand is in a brown briefcase, buried behind the tree in my cousin Alphonso's garden.

The Godfather asks the lawyer, "What did he say?" The lawyer replies, "He says you don't have the guts to pull the trigger."

Amusing Italian Courtroom Exchange

Signor presidente della corte (Judge)
Q: Poliziotto (Policeman), when you stopped the defendant, were your red and blue lights flashing
A: Si.

Q: Did the defendant say anything when she got out of her car?
A: Si, signor.

Q: What did she say?
A: What disco am I at?

See more on amusing courtroom exchanges »

 

Footnote:

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