Italian Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte di Cassazione italiana), Criminal Section I, No. 7140/2022, 1 March 2022
The Italian Court of Cassation once again dealt with culturally motivated offences, a subject that has been the focus of doctrine and jurisprudence for decades.
Specifically, the case concerned the use of minors in begging, a practice widespread in the mentality and cultural traditions of certain peoples.
Apart from the rejection of the grounds of appeal concerning the recurrence of the state of necessity (Art. 54. Italian Criminal Code) and the exemption of the particular tenuousness of the act (Art. 131-bis Italian Criminal Code), the most relevant aspect of the ruling for our purposes lies in the consideration, rectius non consideration, of the cultural factor in the motivations of the defendant, who had been seen receiving from his daughter, a six-year-old girl, money collected from begging asked to passers-by.
The alleged cultural connotation of the practice of begging cannot, according to the Court, lead to the decriminalisation of the defendant's conduct; in fact, cultural values, in the case of the Roma, are not relevant when they conflict with fundamental goods recognised by the constitutional order, such as respect for human rights and the protection of minors.
On the other hand, the Court points out that it is not required, for the purposes of integrating the crime, that the minor be subjected to mortification and suffering, given that the Criminal Law punishes only the fact of using, for the purposes of begging, a minor of 14 years of age and in any case not chargeable.
Rejecting, therefore, the defendant's appeal in its entirety, the Court upheld the sentence of 4 months' imprisonment imposed on him at first instance and then confirmed on appeal, taking a clear position on the pre-eminence of the child's interest and respect for his/her rights over the recognition of the cultural element underlying the offender's conduct.