Prosecutor v Unidentified Father (2015) H&FLR 2015-9
Turin Magistrates Court (Fifth Criminal Division)
26 January 2015
Coram: Minucci J.
Appearing for the Prosecution: Barbara Badellino (of the Italian Ministry of Justice)
Appearing for the Defendant: Not identified
Catchwords: Italy – criminal law – parent – psychological abuse – “tough love” – sport – competition – skiing – dieting
Facts: The accused was the father of two daughters and separated from their mother. Between 2008 (at which time they were aged roughly 11 and 14 years) the girls saw him at weekends. As they entered adolescence they gained a certain amount of weight and lost interest in skiing. The accused compelled his daughters to follow a restricted and macrobiotic diet and forced them to train for and take part in competitive skiing. In 2011 the accused’s daughters complained to their mother of ill-treatment by their father and the matter was referred to the Turin prosecutor’s office. The accused was charged with mistreatment of his daughters.
The evidence (including statements from the girls’ school principal and skiing trainer) indicated that they were subjected to significant psychological pressure and repeatedly told that they were fat and had to do more sport. It appears that identifiable psychological harm had been caused to the girls. There was no evidence of physical abuse.
The accused’s position was that he was acting only as a concerned father, and that any verbal abuse was only to encourage them.
Held: Convicting the accused of mistreating his daughters, that a sentence of nine months imprisonment was appropriate.
No written judgment is available. This report has been prepared based on accounts prepared by duerighe.com, Il Secolo XIX, RAI News, La Voce and La Repubblica, all of 26 January 2015, with the aid of Google Translate
Note: the accused has announced his intention to appeal.
Comment: This case forms an interesting companion to State v Corrigan (1998) H&FLR 2014-63, in which the defendant was convicted of felony child abuse as a result of not addressing health issues caused by her daughter’s significant obesity. Viewed as part of a bigger jurisprudential picture, it suggests that notwithstanding the serious health and economic effects of obesity (1), the ‘fat shaming’ identified by some bloggers will at some point stray from being socially inappropriate to being a legal wrong.
(1) Jim Landers, ‘Cost of Care: The U.S. health care system is bleeding green’, Dallas Morning News, 1 February 2015.