After the issue of Law no. 38/2009, the crime of persecutory acts, better known as “stalking”, was introduced into the Italian legal system. It consists of persecutory conducts, repeated over time such as to cause a lasting and serious state of anxiety or fear, or to generate a well-founded fear for their own safety or a close relative or a person bound to the same by an affective relationship, or to force the same to alter their routine.
The jurisprudence has stated as follows:
“In terms of persecutory acts, the persistent state of anxiety of the victim overlooks a pathological state, and it is sufficient that the persecutory acts have a destabilizing effect on the psychological balance of the victim, such as to affect their capacity for self-determination. (In this case, the former husband from the day of the separation went daily to the family home under the pretext of seeing the children, physically attacking the former wife with threatening and insulting words, who declared that she did not feel free to ask the former husband to leave her alone and sometimes ended up giving in to his requests to stay in the house for fear of triggering further violence)” – Court of S. Maria Capua V, judgement no. 2130/2018.
Persecutory acts on Facebook
Cyberstalking takes place when stalking is committed through modern electronic means of communication. In Italy, the crime of stalking (Art. 612 of the Italian Criminal Code) was introduced by Law no. 38/2009, formally ignoring cyberstalking. The progressive and sudden diffusion of the new virtual means of communication has recently led the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court to recognize and define the characteristics of cyberstalking as a separate crime.
What is cyberstalking?
In the Italian legal system there is no real definition of cyberstalking. The conventional definition, however, understands cyberstalking as the realization of persecutory acts through the use of modern means of communication, such as instant messaging, emailing and activity over social networks.
The repeated sending of messages by such means (SMS, e-mail, posts on social networks) and the diffusion of their content can represent a persecutory conduct, massively harmful to the victim due to the diffusive properties of such means.
In order to be recognized, cyberstalking must initially integrate the peculiar conduct of the crime of staking. Therefore, it is necessary the existence, alternatively, of:
- an event of harm, consisting of an alteration in the lifestyle of a person, or a serious and enduring state of anxiety or fear; or
- an event of danger, consisting of a well-founded fear of one’s own safety, of a close relative, or of a person linked to him by an affective relationship.
Along with the event of harm or danger, the conducts must be repeated. With regard to this point, the Italian Supreme Court ( judgement no. 17082/2015) has made it clear that it is not necessary to identify the conducts in a precise and punctual manner in time and space, but just by a sufficient determination of them.
With reference to the messages published on the well-known social network Facebook, the Court (judgement no. 21407/2016) has ruled that these can integrate the case of cyberstalking, if they are repeated, rather than the simple crime of defamation.
VGS Family Lawyers has an active dedicated unit of lawyers who are available to assist in case of stalking and cyberstalking within the context of a separation or divorce or in any related family matter.