Sweden convicts Italian official of child abuse

AP News
Posted: Sep 13, 2011 12:29 PM
Sweden convicts Italian official of child abuse

An Italian politician who had a public altercation with his 12-year-old son while on vacationing in Sweden was found guilty of child abuse Tuesday in a case that has highlighted differing views on corporal punishment.

The Stockholm District Court said Giovanni Colasante, an official from the small southern Italian town of Canosa di Puglia, "intentionally inflicted pain on his son by pulling him by the hair" for about five seconds during an Aug. 23 argument in Stockholm's Old Town.

Colasante, who denied the charges, was arrested after witnesses approached the family and called police. He spent three nights in jail before returning to Italy and was not present in court Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear whether Colasante would appeal the verdict.

The case has generated front-page headlines in Italy, where it's being called a parenting "culture clash" between northern and southern Europe. But even Italians who say parents shouldn't slap their children question whether Colasante's offense deserved jail time.

Colasante told Italy's state-run RAI television he was "humiliated" by the experience and that his son felt guilty for having put his father through the ordeal.

"I had to give up a vacation, and it put into question my relationship with my son, because he now in some ways feels responsible for what happened," Colasante said, his wife sitting by his side.

In Sweden there is zero tolerance for parents who hit their children, and anyone who does in public is often confronted by bystanders or reported to police.

Sweden was the first country in the world to outlaw corporal punishment in 1979, according to the country's Ombudsman for Children.

Noting that boy had not received any injuries, the court said the abuse was regarded as a misdemeanor and waived a fine of 6,600 kronor ($996), saying Colasante's time in jail was sufficient punishment.

But judging by testimony from several witnesses "it is clear that Giovanni Colasante's violence was severe enough to cause the boy pain," the court noted.


Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.