Italian judges’ ruling ‘just a few seconds’ of groping not a crime sparks outrage

An Italian court has cleared a janitor who groped a schoolgirl because he did it for “just a few seconds” and without “libidinous or lusty intent,” in a ruling that has sparked widespread outrage.

According to court documents, the girl said the man came behind her, put his hands in her underwear and slightly lifted her in the air as she pulled up her trousers after walking up a staircase with a friend.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: The ‘10-second groping rule’ going viral in Italy #10secondi.

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The incident took place in April last year in Rome at a high school in the Ostiense neighbourhood and “the whole thing lasted about five-10 seconds,” judges said in their ruling.

The school caretaker, 66, said he reached for the back of the girl’s trousers, holding her up for a few seconds, “as a joke”.

Afterwards he pleaded with the girl to let it pass, telling her, “You will ruin my life, I didn’t do anything to you”.

The 10 Secondi campaign online highlights how long 10 seconds of groping is. Credit: TikTok

In their verdict, dated July 6, a panel of judges concluded that the inappropriate gesture was so brief that it left “ample doubts” on whether it was voluntary, and found the argument that it was in jest “convincing”.

Andrea Buitoni, a lawyer for the girl, told the Fanpage news site that the decision would “definitely” be appealed.

“This is not the way an old man jokes with a 17-year-old girl. At least that’s what I think,” the girl was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera newspaper, which said she has just turned 18.

The verdict has triggered an online protest, with thousands of social media users posting videos of themselves touching intimate body parts with the hashtags #10seconds and #quickgrope.

The online campaign was started earlier this week by actor and comedian Paolo Camilli, who stars in The White Lotus TV series, and says, fondling his chest in front of the camera “if this is not harassment, what is?”.

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