An Italian appeals court has put right a ruling that obliged the parents of a sexually abused girl to pay thousands of euros to her aggressor over a period of four years.
However, the decision came far too late for the victim, who killed herself in 2014.
The case dates back more than a decade. After Elisa Zaccarelli enrolled to study at the Faenza Art Institute near Bologna, she was sexually molested by her teacher Ezio Foschini for a year.
Foschini was found guilty at his criminal trial, a decision confirmed twice on appeal. He was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay damages totalling €53,000 to help pay for the distressed girl’s counselling expenses.
The settlement was also put before a civil court for confirmation.
Meanwhile, Foschini began transferring his assets to his parents and friends in an attempt to avoid liability. “He gave his BMW to a friend of his, made it appear that he lived in a ruined farmhouse, and stripped himself of his money,” the Zaccarelli family’s lawyer Lorenzo Valmigli told Euronews. “We know that he had many bank accounts because at school he was known for his skills as a stock market player.”
Foschini’s actions prompted an investigation into his finances and a second conviction, for fraud. The disgraced teacher received another jail sentence of one year for failing to execute a court order.
However, the judge at first instance in the civil case questioned one bank account and commissioned an expert’s report. It concluded that the account belonged to Foschini’s father alone, rather than being a joint account held by father and son, according to court documents seen by Euronews.
Despite Ezio Foschini’s criminal conviction, his victim’s family was ordered to pay him trial expenses and “moral damages” of around €30,000 for the “unlawful” seizing of the abuser’s monetary assets.
The monthly payments of around €300 amounted to a significant burden on the Zaccarelli family which was far from wealthy: Elisa’s father had a factory job, her mother Stefania had no fixed employment. They also have a son, Riccardo.
Within six months of the civil court’s judgement, Elisa killed herself.
Nearly four years later, the Court of Appeal in Bologna has now overturned that first instance decision. Foschini, who was sacked by the art school over the case, is now expected to pay a settlement of around €90,000 to the Zaccarelli family.
“The scandal is that the first civil sentence, which was disgraceful and abhorrent, ended up condemning twice a girl who already had traumas,” says Lorenzo Valmigli. “It has now been overturned by 360 degrees.”
Elisa Zaccarelli’s father Davide says he is pleased with the appeal court ruling. The family has had to launch an online appeal to meet legal costs, while the case reached the Italian parliament, where MPs called on the justice minister to investigate.
“Nothing and nobody will give us back Elisa’s smile and presence,” he adds. “Every court hearing has been like a stab to my heart and to that of Stefania, and adds to Riccardo’s silent pain.”
A lawyer for Foschini declined to comment when contacted by Euronews.