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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 21:33 GMT
Court verdict on bottom patting
A phone box
The incident took place in a public phone booth
An Italian court has upheld a 14-month suspended prison sentence handed down to a man who patted a woman's bottom.

The ruling marks the end of a long legal battle which began when the woman was touched as she made a phone call from a public telephone in 2001.

Italy's Supreme Court has now ruled that the unwanted physical contact constitutes sexual violence.

The man, in his forties, was given a suspended sentence as he is a first time offender.

A lower court in the northern Italian region of Friuli had initially ruled that the man's act did not constitute a crime but the woman took the decision to an appeals court in Trieste, which deemed it to be an act of sexual assault.

The decision was confirmed on Wednesday by the Court of Cassation, the country's highest court.

The ruling underlines a sea-change in the judiciary's attitude to such cases.

In 2003, Italy's highest appeals court jailed a 58-year-old man for patting a girl on the behind as she worked in her parents' ice-cream shop.

But, just a few years before, in 2001, the court decided in another case that a single or "sudden" slap or pat was not sexual harassment, provided that it was "isolated and impulsive".

Country profile: Italy
12 Dec 04 |  Country profiles

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