Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Bridge Too Far?

Italian judge fines parents of rapists for failures in upbringing.

The parents of Italian children who commit violent crimes face the threat of crushing financial penalties following a landmark ruling by a judge in Milan.

The mothers and fathers of five teenage boys who repeatedly raped a young girl have been ordered to pay her compensation totalling €450,000 because of their failure to give their sons an "education in feelings and emotions". Judge Bianca La Monica awarded the damages against all the boys' natural parents, including those who had separated from their partners and no longer had custody of their sons.

Many details of the case have not been disclosed because of laws regarding the identity of rape victims and minors. But, according to the daily Corriere della Sera, the girl was forced to have sex on a number of occasions between 2001 and 2003.

The girl was 12 at the start of the period and the boys were two or three years older. In assessing damages, Judge La Monica took into account the psychological damage to the victim and the fact that after the rapes she had left school early, thereby curbing her future earning prospects.

In a written judgment, the judge said the defendants came from seemingly normal families. Yet they appeared to have no understanding of the gravity of what they had done. They had given evidence about the rapes in a way that was "aseptic", she said. They had employed "words that were not expressive of emotions, using for the girl terms that made it clear there had been no consideration for her person."

It was only when they had been pressed to think about the effect of their behaviour on the girl that they had shown "glimmers of awareness". The judge said this showed the accused had not been brought up "in a context of respect for the feelings, wishes and bodies of others". She said that, in their defence, the mothers and fathers of the boys had offered various examples of their supposedly good parenting.

More At The Guardian.

Four-hundred and Fifty Thousand Euros is nearly Six Hundred,and  Eighteen Thousand U.S. dollars. That is one crushing fine. The mind boggles at such an amount. Is such a punishment within the bounds of reason? It feels like overkill at first blush. Parents do need to be held accountable for the actions of their minor children, but must they be ground down into a powder? Rape is a horrible crime, there is no denying that fact. It is up to society to make clear it does not tolerate crimes that violate the very being of its citizens ; but this? Is not a little mercy in order? Maybe the parents tried to do their level best with these awful boys and failed. Sociopaths seem to have a genetic dimension to their behavior. Sociopathy does seem to have deeply ingrained and incurable pathology. While not all people are intrinsically evil, some people do at least appear to be so.

On a less philosophical consideration, it is almost inevitable that there is going to be blow-back from this decision. Some poor child will be found chained to a bed in Italy and the parents excuse will be that they had no choice. The child was "bad" and was going to get them in legal trouble. The parents could not "afford" to let him leave his room because he would "naturally" do something that they would be fined for. I give that particular story about five years maximum before it also pops up on the web pages of the Guardian.
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