Crime and Court news

The statute of limitations in Italian criminal law

A judgement by the Italian Supreme Court acquitting all of the defendants in one of the asbestos cases due to the statute of limitations caused uproar in Italy. Casale Monferrato, a Municipality near Alessandria which suffered particularly in the asbestos epidemic, even decreed an official mourning. Thousands of people died in Italy as a consequence of the high toxicity of asbestos, and some of the people involved, including the Swiss tycoon Stephan Schmidheiny, are accused of willingly allowing those deaths.

The accusation still stands, because the Supreme Court ruled only on the charge of environmental disaster, not on the charges of manslaughter.

The Italian criminal law unusually keeps the statute of limitations running even during the trial; and you can’t even say that this is unfair, since trials in Italy last years or even decades, therefore a defendant could remain in the limbo for too long. The solution is one and one only: have faster trials. But reforms are not easy in Italy, not even with Mr Renzi in charge.

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