• Sweden edition

Italian politico convicted for pulling son's hair

Published: 13 Sep 2011 14:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Sep 2011 14:03 GMT+02:00

In finding Giovanni Colasante, 46, a local politician from Canosa di Puglia in southern Italy, guilty of assault, the court fined him 6,600 kronor ($990).

Colasante was arrested on August 23rd as he and his family were about to enter a Stockholm eatery in the city's historic Gamla Stan (Old Town) district.

They were in the Swedish capital on vacation as part of a cruise that was to take them to several Nordic countries.

But when Colasante's 12-year-old son refused to go into the restaurant, the boy's father reacted and, according to witnesses, attacked the young lad.

“He lifted his son up by the hair,” eye witness Deniz Cinkitas told the Aftonbladet newspaper following the incident.

Other guests at the restaurant called police and Colasante was placed under arrest for breaking Sweden's laws outlawing corporal punishment, putting a dent in the remainder of the family's travel plans.

While no one denies that a disagreement took place, exactly how Colasante may have treated his son remains a matter of interpretation.

According to the district court's ruling, four witnesses testified to seeing Colasante pull his son's hair before rushing over to prevent any further violence.

However, testimony regarding the blows that Colasante allegedly dealt out was less certain. As a result, the Italian politician was convicted of abuse based solely on having pulled his son's hair.

Despite the fact that an adult was seen to have committed violence against a child, the court deemed the assault to be minor as Colasante only caused his son pain for a few seconds.

In deciding on Colasante's punishment, the court took into account that he has been held by police since his arrest.

The fact that Colasante was held against his will and saddled with travel restrictions is unusual for minor offences, but occurred in this case because the court wanted to make sure that he didn't leave the country.

The Italian embassy in Stockholm refused to comment on the verdict, but confirmed embassy official had been in contact with Colasante.

“We have just gotten word of this sentence, and he will discuss with his lawyer what he will do next,” Caterina Gioiella, embassy First Secretary told The Local.

Colasante's case has garnered a great deal of attention in the media in Italy, which is among the 11 EU countries without a law forbidding corporal punishment.

Sweden was the first to introduce a formal ban on corporal punishment back in 1979 and a slew of countries have since followed suit. The Swedish ban has faced scrutiny and been roundly criticised in some areas of the Italian media.

Mali Nilsson, responsible for the international work on corporal punishment at Save the Children Sweden, has followed the debate in Italy.

She has concluded that the discussion has been based on an incorrect view of Swedish legislation.

"It is thought that the law is intended to criminalise parents and that neighbours should report one another. But we know that the law has not led to more parents losing their children. Nor was that the intention; the purpose is preventative - to protect children," she said.

Of the EU's 27 member states, 16 have a law against corporal punishment. In Italy it is expressly forbidden in schools, but not in the home.

Save the Children Italy lobbies for a change in the law, but has noted that Colasante's case has stirred such strong emotions in the country that a planned campaign on the issue could be put on ice, Mali Nilsson explained.

"They may have to wait with their campaign. But my colleagues also say that the case has at least prompted a debate, and that could be something," she said.

TT/The Local/pvs (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

08:14 September 13, 2011 by senlac
How often have I wanted to swat some rude kid!
10:01 September 13, 2011 by sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset
Sweden has no right to influence other nations and their cultures on how to raise their children. Save the Children needs to be disbanded. "Thanks" to organizations like Save the Children, the U.S. has adopted these same laws about corporal punishment like in Sweden since the early 1980s. We have now had two generations of spoiled brats and our youth today do not know the definition of "discipline," even playing out in the streets at midnight when they should be home in bed. Right here on The Local there's an ad running to "Visit Sweden," why? Why should tourists from outside of Scandinavia want to visit a nation that arrests tourists for simply pulling their child's hair? This has gotten WAY out of hand.
10:14 September 13, 2011 by Prothis
@ sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset:

So the fact that children in the US run around until midnight is because corporal punishment is forbidden? And if parents could just beat their children they would go to bed at 21:00? Sounds like in the US they need to learn a thing or two about parenting...
10:44 September 13, 2011 by Åskar
@ sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset:

I don't like your behaviour. Is it OK if I knee you in the groin?
10:58 September 13, 2011 by RobinHood
@ sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset

I don't like your behaviour. Is it OK if I poke my finger in your eye?
11:45 September 13, 2011 by Addendum
A greater context for this story is that the Swedish state and the "experts" it employees have the right to CONTROL all behavior in Sweden. The Swedish state owns children in Sweden. Parents are seen as caretakers that the state directs. Sweden has just outlawed homeschooling.

Read the case of DOMENIC JOHANSSON. Read cases fought by lawyer Siv Westerby. Swedish families have moved to Finland. They're applying for asylum status in the U.S. and Canada. The Swedish state does NOT care about child welfare. The state cares about control. Read about lawyer Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, who fights the state's abuses of children and their families…
11:56 September 13, 2011 by Kevin Harris
@ sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset:

I don't like your behaviour. Is it OK if I kick you on the knee?
12:40 September 13, 2011 by jamesblish
No one doubts that a parent sometimes thinks of hitting a child. But you don't actually go ahead and do it. If it's against the law to hit or abuse another adult, why should it be allowed to do it to a kid?
13:34 September 13, 2011 by Åskar

Probably because a child is not big enough to hit back, which means it's much safer for grown ups to hit children than other grown ups.
13:52 September 13, 2011 by aveminus
Why should the Swedish law apply in this case???? You can't expect a tourist to read all the Swedish laws before visiting Sweden :| And to top it all the court takes so much time to pass judgement. It definitely is a nightmare for any tourist to go to jail. I don't think tourists would want to visit Sweden after this incident.

Compare this case with the one with child negligence case against the Swedish mother in US a few months back,.,.,I think most of you guys were sympathizing the Swede saying the US laws suck and it should not apply to her b'cos its fine in Sweden to leave your child unattended :)

Most laws in Sweden are so confusing and not at all well defined. Some people get sent to jail for bringing home a hungry Hedgehog. And then its legal to hunt some animals :)

And the rape laws have already made Sweden more famous :)

I am totally against child abuse. But then the way this case has been handled it is a shame.
14:38 September 13, 2011 by Roy E
This incident makes the national headlines, but being convicted for producing child porn only warrants a six year prison sentence.

Sweden is one very, very confused society.
14:38 September 13, 2011 by glenquagmaire
There are 2 issue's here:

1. Its not acceptable to hit a kid, so the law in itself is fine to be applied.

2. It was applied on a tourist, who is been raised and would raise his child in an environment and law which is not Swedish.

So, an individual staying in Sweden will have to abide by point no:1, weather he/she reads it or is ignorant about it.

When this law has to be apllied to a tourist, there can be a stern warning and a notice to its embassy on the individual, and in extreme cases especially within EU a followup if the case can be tried in the home country.

But you cannot put a tourist in jail or fine him for doing things which are not Swedish, this control has gone way out of hand.

If you want this to be a global practice(which is good) take it at the right forum,

But by applying it on tourist, it sends a lot of negative signal's and people who would care less of Swedish law would laugh and stay away from it( and i dont think this can be done for a long time).
14:40 September 13, 2011 by riose

What would you have done to get the kid into the restaurant?
14:55 September 13, 2011 by summo

If I lovingly hit you around the head a few times (with a heavy blunt object), I presume you'll respect more as a person after ? :)
14:56 September 13, 2011 by prince T
Marilyn vos Savant

I am glad my parent disciplined me. I dont smoke, drink nor party because of my father's dicipline. I cannott do dat 2 my own child because i will go to jail. My life is stable because of my father my hero dat did not spare d rod when it was absolutely necessary. He loved me so much but there were some boundaries i must not cross
15:01 September 13, 2011 by London_Jim
Fair enough it's against Swedish law, but would have thought that common sense would have meant a stern talking-to from a copper would have sufficed, rather than this political carnival that has been started.
15:03 September 13, 2011 by RobinHood
When we travel, we do not take our own laws with us, we agree to be bound by the laws of that juristiction, whether we like with them or not. Or even whether we bother to find out what those laws might be, or not.

It is the height of arrogance for someone to claim the law of the land (any land) does not apply to them; in Sweden, (and in Italy) the law applies to everyone, Kings, paupers and even tourists.

I look forward to reading about a Swede arrested in Italy who says "Italian law does not apply to me, I'm from Sweden". I am sure the Italian courts will give such a powerful defence the respect it deserves.
15:12 September 13, 2011 by f_delacolina
I do agree with many of the things that have been said here. I am a lawyer and there is no way anyone can say that this has been treated in a rightful way. You can't apply the law to someone who does not know about it. Yes, we all know that you should hurt any other human being either adult or children. You have also to respect the different cultures. If you really think about it, Sweden could have treated things in a different way. Police could have raised a warning to the father explaining the situation, making sure that the child was all right and that would have been enough. That is a reasonable criteria that should apply to the case. On the other side, who took in consideration the testimony of the mother of the child who also holds rights over him and is in the best position to explain what happened?. Isn't it her the best person to protect the child? The lack of criteria of the police is amazing. The judge has not so much to do here because as soon as he gets the case, by law, by his own law, he is force to rule.

Another argument is how you should show discipline to your children and I believe that it depends to each of us. The state has the obligation to protect any citizen, including children. But if we go back to our own experience, we all behaved wrongly in some opportunity and none of us died because of our father pulling our hear or grabbing us by the arms or so. The issue is how far that can go and I don't believe that not even touching the child is the best option. Many countries rely in the grade of the injuries to determinate it. Balance, always balance.
15:25 September 13, 2011 by Kevin Harris
@ f_delacolina

"I am a lawyer and .... You can't apply the law to someone who does not know about it."

If you were a good lawyer, you would know that you can. Ignorance of the law is not a defence. Back to law school with you.
15:35 September 13, 2011 by Migga
You should never use violence against a child. Period. Then it`s up to each country to define what is considerd violence. I consider a slap and pulling by the hair as violence. I don`t consider taking the child by it`s hand as violence.

@ sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset

Sweden has as much right as any other country to influence. What is good in one country is often copied by others. The fact that you don`t think the father should be jailed makes me sick.

@ riose

I would have talked to the child. I would have bribed him. If all else failed I would take him by his hand and lead him in. I would never strike, slap, pull or kick a child.

@ glenquagmaire

So you can`t put a tourist in jail? Are you crazy? So just because one is a tourist they should be able to do anything and when confronted they should just act ignorent and say that they didn`t know about the law? You are ridiculous. If you have a vacation in a foerign country it`s up to you to know what is acceptable or not.
15:38 September 13, 2011 by Scepticion

"If he was hungry and had the money to buy his own food someplace else, good for him"

Hmm, I presume if you had been in the US, you would have been accused of child neglect. No, you cannot let a 12 year old roam around alone in a foreign city - no way.

And I have my serious doubts he would have entered by himself if he was hungry, if he was so obstinate - anyway, impossible to know now.
15:41 September 13, 2011 by summo
London Jim, I can't beleive you're suggesting the application of common sense and dealing with the situation proportionally!

I think it's a case of gobby Italian (i'm stereotyping) and over keen Swedish Police (rare - again not sterotyping) both clashing on the day.

You would that if it happened a 100 times again the Police would give the adult hair puller a verbal slapping and send them on their way. Only problem here is a really $hit parent might then take it out on the kid once home, for humiliating him etc.
16:06 September 13, 2011 by jamesblish
Roy E: False dichotomy much?
16:13 September 13, 2011 by NewinSweden
Italians are Crazy we know that I am not surprised at all.. but think on this...

SWEDEN says Corporal punishment ..Totally Forbiden!!!

Sweden says Abortion ... OK

Does it make any sense?

Can any aone explainme please???
16:26 September 13, 2011 by Pointofview
Ola Lindholm - A TV presenter for one of the most popular children's shows gets a fine of 1500 SEK for drug abuse, no other punishment.

A father gets detained and fined 6600 SEK for disciplining his child.

Which one is more guilty of damaging the next generation....

Can't get the logic of the law sometimes
16:33 September 13, 2011 by Polarbear
To steer the conversation back a bit... This reminds me of the story of the Swedish woman in the US who left her baby outside of a restaurant.


In the US this is considered child abuse but the response of the mother was:

'She told police that she "found nothing wrong with the situation", emphasising that it was common practice for Swedish parents to leave young children unattended outside a restaurant.'

Did not everyone here rise up in her defence?

I certainly do not condone discipline that involves corporal punishment and would rather see the use of reason and will but this is not about this. This story is about the legality of it all.
16:57 September 13, 2011 by KungsholmenGuy
Sweden wants to prevent violence against children (noble cause), to stop the cycle of parents that use corporal punishment against their children etc.., but still the penalty seems a bit harsh, for two reasons:

a) if someone starts to lift you by your hair, your hands will immediately fly up to hold onto his hands in order to carry your own weight, so it is not like the parent was ripping out his son's hair one fistfull at a time. I am not in favour of violence against children in any form, but it is not uncommon (and admitedly, nor is it right) for children to have to deal with this level of trouble in school yards from bullies for example, but it is not the end of the world either.

b) the fine + jail time + legal fees + disruption of the family's travel plans could easily amount to something in the neighbourhood of a 50,000 SEK loss to the family, which, incidentally, is the amount that a 20 year in Sweden was recently fined for being guilty of 'murder, bordering on torture' (+ 6 to 9 years jail time).

The fine for murder is ridiculously low, however an equivalent financial penalty to a family with a tourist Dad who acts like a jerk is on the high side, in my opinion.
18:24 September 13, 2011 by hackie

Your comment is among the few comments that make sense here. You said my mind.

@All of you insulting sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset (You know yourselves), may all of you wroth in Swedish jail.
19:04 September 13, 2011 by Douglas Garner
I wonder if any Swede tried to intervene! Oh sure, call the police. But why not try to talk to the parent? Fast, direct, opportunity to solve a potentially bad situation... oh no, it is safer to have the police deal with it. I cannot help but wonder what the response time was!
20:33 September 13, 2011 by Kapsyl
According to sydsvenska dagbladet it says in the verdict that 2 or 3 witnesses intervened to avert further violence.

20:45 September 13, 2011 by Iraniboy
The culteral difference between Sweden and other countries even European countries is very much and many people don't realize it before they actually live in Sweden for sometime.
21:44 September 13, 2011 by truthgate777
testing my username
22:26 September 13, 2011 by jamesblish
Please stop lying. In the US it is not considered "child abuse" to leave your child unattended, not in state nor federal law. And the case of the unattended kid has nothing to do with this case. Why are you acting like it's a war going on, where the purpose is to prove the other country wrong somehow? Grow the f*ck up.
23:35 September 13, 2011 by redblue
As previously stated, ignorance of the law is not a defence. The law applies to all, with some exceptions (the king, diplomats and others with legal immunity).

I am pleased people intervening in this particular assault were not ethnic Swedes. When you live or visit Sweden you must follow the law of Sweden.
01:12 September 14, 2011 by Svensksmith
I keep telling my wife that it is wee wee abuse when she leaves it alone...so then she started pulling it!
08:29 September 14, 2011 by RobinHood

Colosante was held on remand because he gave the court reasonable grounds to believe he intended to leave the country and escape Swedish justice. It is normal (in Sweden, Italy, and everywhere else) to refuse bail in those circumstances. He was later able to reassure the court he would return to Sweden for trial and was released on bail pending a trial.

Wherever you travel, and even at home, if don't want to be "humiliated" and/or bring distress to your family, don't break the law. If you do, the "humiliation" and distress is down to you alone.

If Italians are unable to follow the Swedish law in Sweden, they are unwelcome. I am sure Italians feel the same way about Swedes who are unable to follow the Italian law in Italy.
10:47 September 14, 2011 by Central European
Well thats perfect example how "cool law" can make things more difficult.

There was an story in USA when Italian grandfather was each day going with his grandson to the school and he was kissing him to goodbye...

Result ?

The sexual harassement sue from crazy offended teacher ( lady). Police goes to save grandchild to stop ugly grandfather´kissing attack. Dishonour in front of hudnreds people from comunity, cryiing but SAVED grandchild:(, old man jailed......

Finnal result after several court sessions ?

The grandfather ïs forbbiden to go nearer then 1/4 of mile to any school arround now !

Shame on such using of law !
18:06 September 14, 2011 by shiraz
People who have children, then cannot rear their children properly and then have to resort to corporal punishment because they have failed in parenting their children ought NOT to have children. We need to also introduce laws that prevent parents from making psychological / spiritual attacks on their children - such attacks are also prevalent in third world countries. People who attack their children are also likely to abuse their wives. Well done Sweden. This is why we love you - may your ways be embraced by all and may tyrants and abusers perish.
16:07 September 15, 2011 by DanFromItaly
Abuse of children is prohibited in Italy too, "corporal punishment" is not allowed, not in schools nor in private houses, the exception is for parent, they can't really hurt children, a slap in the butt is tolerated, everything else can be considered abuse. Here leaving a child alone, paricularly on a city street is punished too, it is considered child neglect and can take as far as losing the parental status. So don't expect italan families to leave alone a child on a street in Stockholm. We're also responsable for our children's behaviour, in a recent case in Milan 2 families were held responsible for "miseducating" their 2 girls who as they were 13 years old had beaten another girl, stealing her mobile. The 2 families have been processed and they now have to pay 50 thousand euros for compensation.

Last year here in Italy I witnessed a real child abuse, a man on the beach was really beating hard his son, we all reacted against him, he had to face dozens of angry people and we all waited with him for police. Abuse of children is not tolerated in Italy.

My father never beated me but gave me slaps in the butt when I got over the limits (and my mother too), I clearly remember that I didn't feel pain, I felt sorry for having been too far. Only in one occasion he did hurt me, it was when he pulled my hairs, at that time I remember I cried and I told him he really hurt me, he said to me he was sorry, he cuddled me and never did it again.

My parents did give me a good education, made me strong and aware that over certain limits there are consequencies. To me bad parents are the ones that don't care about their children, or don't spend enough time with them, abusers are simply criminals and if this italian is a real abuser, please keep him in prison, you'll save Italy of a criminal and another corrupt politician.

But I feel like here in Europe we're losing the sense of reality and we're blindly following some high ideals forgetting that the biggest cause of our misery is that we created a unnatural way of living, too much time at work and following money, too little time with our family and loved ones.
00:38 September 16, 2011 by Donna Liga
Actually the only real "problem" here was the fact that the politico did this in public. Nobody would have fined the guy if he did it in his own privacy. Face it, what is the possibility of a child not calling the police after his/her parent pulls his/her hair?

...Just mentioning the funky side of the law...
20:25 September 16, 2011 by SkipEU
I wonder why would anyone call a police for something so minor. Just say something to parents if it bothers you.
11:03 September 18, 2011 by orangestar
The truth is that the italian man didn't use violence against his son. The kid was safe and eating at the table.No ambulance and none said that the boy was bleeding from his head.No slap at all. Just as italians use to do....noises and gestures and this was too much for the witnesses. They called police only because they were italians.I don't believe to the witnesses at all.......and prove of the fact is that the fee was only 6.600SEK.ù

The witnesses also insulted in italian language the man when he was going back ot the restaurant with his son.

Is not the first time that witnesses says lies.
04:42 September 20, 2011 by sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset
@hackie, #32: Thank you. So many out here do not know the meaning of "tough love." And to agree with jailing the boy's father for three days. What does THAT solve? That's more abuse than pulling the kid's hair. Sweden, for the most part, has its priorities all screwed UP. I keep telling as many people as I can who contemplate traveling to Europe to STAY AWAY from Sweden.

OMG: To those of you out here who have disagreed with me: I NEVER stated that hitting your child was o.k. I stated that children need to be disciplined. There's a BIG difference. I am sorry that you persons flunked your 4th grade comprehension class, that's not my problem. I took away privileges from the children that I raised. Playing out in the streets well after sunset and into the late hours of the night, not only reflects the grave irresponsiblities of parents today, it is ALSO a form of child abuse: Neglecting your child(ren) without supervision, especially so late at night, opens the door to child predators and kidnappers.
13:49 September 29, 2011 by Belindashort
When you travel to another country, it doesn't matter how small or stupid you think their laws are, you obey the law.

It doesn't matter how minor any of you think the offence was, the law is the law.
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