Code Red: Italian prosecutors flooded by reports of domestic violence and sexual abuse

Code Red: Italian prosecutors flooded by reports of domestic violence and sexual abuse
An installation in Rome raising awareness of violence against women. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
Italian prosecutors warned on Friday that a new law designed to fast-track cases of domestic and sexual abuse was overwhelming the system with record numbers of victim reports.

The law, which came into force on August 9th and has been dubbed Italy's “Code Red”, requires prosecutors to gather information from alleged victims and decide how to proceed within three days of receiving police reports.

Since then there has been a spike in reports: some 30-40 incidents daily have been flagged in Milan, an average of 30 a day in Naples and 25 in Rome since the law took effect, the Repubblica daily said.

READ ALSO: Italy passes new domestic violence law

“It's not a case of a rise in crimes, but a rise in the number of reports by people who — encouraged by the new law — are going to the police,” said Genoa prosecutor Francesco Cozzi. 

Supporters say the new legislation has positive elements: it makes “revenge porn” and “deformation of looks” (causing permanent scarring) a crime and allows judges to clap electronic bracelets on those slapped with restraining orders.

But in large cities on-duty prosecutors have found themselves interviewing 20 complainants in an arc of 24 hours. Prosecutor sources in Milan described being “inundated by a flood of reports of alleged abuse, violence or persecution, day in and day out”, the Messaggero daily said.

READ ALSO: Almost half of Italian women report suffering sexual harassment


Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“I share the wish to speed up the intervention of judicial authorities, and make it more efficient,” Maria Monteleone, the magistrate in charge of Rome's anti-violence pool, told Repubblica. “But the three-day deadline within which prosecutors have to hear testimony from all complainants is unreasonable,” she said, adding that it did not leave enough time to properly examine individual cases.

“If everything becomes urgent, then nothing is urgent any more,” she added.

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The law means cases of groping have to be treated with the same urgency as a child abused at home, the newspaper said.

Lella Palladino from the Dire network, which manages 115 anti-violence centres and 55 refuges, said it was positive that victims were being heard so quickly, but that the law should have included obligatory training for prosecutors.

“Many women are still being killed because police — but also prosecutors and judges that hear the cases — downplay the risks,” she said. “Or worse still, they find alibis for the aggressors, such as madness and jealousy.”  


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