Posts Tagged ‘Italian police’

The EU works. A bit. And slowly

January 25, 2019

As the Guardian reports below, the EU has finally taken down Italy’s pants and spanked both its cheeks for its grotesque, puerile, unprofessional and corrupt handling of the Meredith Kercher murder case. This is edifying and reminds us that the EU does perform a vital role in setting standards for its more backward members. If only, however, the EU would do more to enforce those standards in a uniform fashion.

Within Italy, the Sollecito-Knox case has led to zero change that I am aware of. Giuliano Mignini, the original narcissistic Italian magistrate-nut-job, continues to work as a public prosecutor in Perugia. No policeman, as far as I know, has been sanctioned for the many, many laws the police broke. And Italy still has no equivalent of the UK’s Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE, 1984), which makes collusion between courts and police very difficult by imposing a review layer between them — what in the UK is called the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Italy has every single one of the judicial and police problems that led to the passage of the PACE in the UK 35 years ago. But because Italy is presently masquerading as a country called Shitaly, it won’t get on and do the same thing.



Amanda Knox.
 Amanda Knox. Photograph: NBC NewsWire/Reuters

Amanda Knox: European court orders Italy to pay damages

The European court of human rights has ordered Italy to pay Amanda Knox €18,400 for police failures to provide her access to a lawyer and a translator during questioning over the 2007 killing of her British flatmate Meredith Kercher in Perugia.

The ruling opens the way for Knox’s lawyers to challenge her last remaining conviction, for malicious accusation, in the Italian courts.

The court, in Strasbourg, declared that Italy must pay Knox €10,400 in damages plus €8,000 to cover costs and expenses.

As well as concluding authorities had twice violated her right to a fair trial, the ECHR also found they had failed to investigate her complaints she had been subjected to degrading treatment, including being slapped on the head and deprived of sleep. The court did not, however, uphold her complaint of ill-treatment.

The 31-year-old American’s convictions for murder and sexual assault were previously overturned. She was also found guilty by an Italian court of making a malicious accusation, by allegedly suggesting someone else was guilty of the murder.

The killing of Kercher, a Leeds University European Studies student on a one-year exchange course in Umbria, generated global headlines for several years as charges of sexual assault and murder were fought through the courts – exposing Italy’s justice system to international criticism.

Knox, a language student and Kercher’s flatmate, and Knox’s Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were initially charged with sexually assaulting and killing her. Kercher was stabbed in the neck.

The following year Knox was also charged with malicious accusation for suggesting another person should be a suspect. Italian detectives alleged she was trying to hide her responsibility for the attack by blaming someone else. Knox wants to have that conviction quashed.

Judges at the ECHR said the Italian government had failed to show that Knox’s restricted access to a lawyer had not “irreparably undermined the fairness of the proceedings as a whole”.

Meredith Kercher.
 Meredith Kercher. Photograph: PA

“Ms Knox had been particularly vulnerable, being a foreign young woman, 20 at the time, not having been in Italy for very long and not being fluent in Italian,” the court noted.

The ECHR’s decision was “not a big surprise for me because the supreme court already said there were many mistakes,” said Knox’s lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova. “That is one of the reasons that invited us to tell Amanda to go to Strasbourg. For me this is a certification of a mistake, probably the biggest legal mistake in the last years in Italy, also because the attention that this case has had.”

Dalla Vedova said of the malicious accusation conviction: “It is impossible to compensate Amanda for four years in prison for a mistake. There will be no amount. We are not looking for compensation of damages. We are doing this on principal.”

In 2009, Knox was convicted in an Italian court of falsifying a break-in at their Perugia flat, sexual assault, murder and defamation. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Sollecito was also found guilty of the attack and sentenced to 25 years.

Both appealed. In 2011, the Perugia court of appeal acquitted the pair of the more serious charges, but upheld Knox’s conviction for malicious accusation.

After nearly four years in custody, Knox was released and returned to the US. She appealed again to challenge the malicious accusation conviction. It was quashed but in 2014 she was re-convicted of both malicious accusation and murder.

The murder conviction was again annulled by the court of cassation, the country’s highest court, the following year but the malicious accusation conviction was not removed. Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede is serving a 16-year sentence for his role in the killing.

Lawyers for Knox, who lives in Seattle, then appealed to the ECHR to overturn the last remaining conviction. They argued she was denied the right to legal assistance when first interviewed by police in 2007, was not given access to a professional or independent interpreter and that she did not receive a fair hearing.

Knox has always denied any involvement in the murder.



I wrote a ton of stuff about this case while it was going on. It ought to all be under the ‘Italy to avoid’ tab


World’s sickest joke ends

March 28, 2015

Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox have been acquitted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, a crime there was never any serious evidence they were involved in. The process took more than eight years (quite quick for Italy); they were convicted, acquitted, convicted, acquitted, and spent four years in prison.

Meanwhile Rudy Guede, who did kill Meredith Kercher, and in the most brutal, painful manner after first sexually assaulting her, is already enjoying day release from prison.

There will be no enquiry into the handling of the case by prosecuting magistrate Giuliano Mignini, whose bizarre theories and lack of professionalism had convinced two journalists to write a book about his ‘investigative’ techniques long before the Kercher case. Nor will there be an enquiry into the conduct of elements of the Perugia police that operated with total unprofessionalism and outside the law during the investigation.

Some people on the Knox side are so relieved the torment is over that they are saying their faith in Italian justice is restored. This is a terrible thing to say. The only useful purpose the case has served is to advertise to the world just how hopeless the Italian justice system is and perhaps give a tiny push towards it one day being reformed.

I have cited European Union reports on the Italian justice system in previous blogs under the ‘Italy to Avoid’ category. One other pointer I noticed recently is that the World Bank, as of 2015, ranks Italy 147th in the world for enforcement of contracts.



Amanda Knox’s account of her trial and incarceration is well worth a read. It isn’t perfect, but it is a serious book, much more serious than many others that have been written about her and Sollecito. (By a curious coincidence, the Capanne prison where she and Sollecito were held is the same one where the carpenter on our house in Italy died; a hippy, arrested for marijuana possession, there is a good prima facie case that he was beaten to death. Needless to say, his friends who tried to pursue legal recourse will not be getting any.)



The first media outlet to have put the boot into the Italian legal system that I have seen is The Economist. Bless.

No, no, no

July 1, 2014

The Guardian, which has reported Sollecito-Knox pretty well, falls asleep on the job. Sorry to those who don’t give a damn about Italy, but this complaint to the readers’ editor explains:

I ask you to take a  look at the 1 July Guardian story (no byline) about the appeal of Raffaele Sollecito. It asserts (par 4) that Knox and Sollecito have previously always had a ‘rigidly joint defence’. This is 180 degrees from the truth. Part of the reason for the original conviction was that they did not have a rigidly joint defence. If Sollecito’s pending appeal implies the possibility of Knox’s guilt as part of his defence, it will in fact be consistent with the line his lawyers have pursued in the past.

If you link to my blog entries on this subject and scroll down to September 19 2012, you will find a germane entry which references, among other things, much more accurate reporting by your own paper.
I am not sure if you have just picked up an agency report here, but a court case carrying a life sentence deserves better treatment.

Weekend reading & viewing: on the theme of money (and other stuff)

May 11, 2013


George Monbiot has a go at tackling the ‘what motivates the very rich?’ issue. His thoughts are not a million miles from mine. What I have noticed about the billionaires I spent time with for research is that their reading matter consists largely of copies of Forbes, that they are engaged in ‘a game’ against their peer group in which they have little perspective on the challenges facing a wider society, and that therefore their activities need to be framed by rules made by politicians.

How four tourists were charged Euro64 for four ice creams in Rome and how the bar says it is fair.

Meanwhile Sir Michael Jagger and Keith Richards, well-known anti-Establishment radicals, wax lyrical on the price function, the price of tickets for their US gigs, and why US$65 million is a fair return on a short tour. It’s very like the defence put up by the Roman ice cream sellers, except with more ‘you know, man’ and ‘some cat said’ thrown in.

I was once hitchhiking through Ireland and saw the most arresting biblical words I have come across written on a wall in huge letters. It didn’t seem like much at the time because Ireland was still pisspoor back then. But the words have gained resonance since: ‘What shall it profit a man that he should gain the world and thereby lose his soul?’ Let me know the answer when you have a moment Roman, or Mario, or Sir Mick.

If this isn’t enough about the trouble that money can cause, I am informed there will be in interview with Stanley Ho’s daughter Pansy in tomorrow’s UK Sunday Times. Here’s the background from this blog if you don’t know it.


Here is a review of Amanda Knox’s biography. Here is another one by the co-writer of Sollecito’s book. And here is a typically snooty, but also useful, review by the Grey Matriarch of Manhattan.

I would recommend reading this book even though I have not done so yet. However you will have to buy an import if you are in the UK or get an electronic download (as I will). This is because British libel law and publisher spinelessness mean that Knox’s book has not been published in Britain.

Finally, here is a link to The Economist blogging on the subject of China Dreams. I post this for no better reason than that I wrote a book called The China Dream in 2002 and I think this was the first use of the term in this recent period. However I seem to recall finding one or more older books in the British library that referenced China dreams. Mind too befuddled to remember clearly and no time to check. (Later: for some reason The Economist then publishes a letter saying what the blog already pointed out in the print edition.)

The Disneyland within Disneyland

March 26, 2013

Ital election Mickey face

Italian laywer toga

Upset, perhaps, that Italian politics is grabbing all the attention in the wake of recent elections, Italy’s judges are making a bold move to have the spotlight of international incredulity shine once more on their egomaniacal antics.

The national appeals court, the Court of Cassation, has sent the Meredith Kercher murder case back for a third trial, this time in Florence.

The headline reason (we won’t get the detailed ‘reasoning’ for up to 90 days) is that elements of the second trial were not conducted according to proper procedure.

To which the only response is: perhaps, but this is Italy, the Land of Unprofessionalism, where nothing is done entirely according to the rules.

On the other hand, the evidence that Sollecito and Knox were not responsible for the murder, that Rudy Guede was, and that police and magistrates broke countless laws in the course of the investigation and trial, is incontrovertible.

Nothing can now change the fact that the investigation of Meredith Kercher’s murder was staggeringly unprofessional, and that the handling of the physical evidence was disastrous.

These facts should have pointed Italy’s judiciary and its politicians to the need for urgent, radical reforms to the judicial and police systems (as recommended by the EU Commission, see below). Instead they are creating additional unnecessary pain for a large group of people, most obviously the victim’s family. And as ever in Italy, it is all done behind a gossamer veil of ‘propriety’.


Guardian on the Court of Cassation decision.

In a report by the EU Commission last year, the human rights commissioner condemned the length of proceedings and the inefficiency of the Italian legal system, noting: ‘The complexity and magnitude of the problem is such that Italy needs nothing short of a holistic rethinking of its judicial and procedural system, as well as a shift in judicial culture, with a concerted effort from the Ministry of Justice and the High Council of the Judiciary, as well as judges, prosecutors and lawyers.’ Moreover, he said the problems are as much the fault of a self-serving judiciary as of politicians who fail to make judicial reforms: ‘While legislative action is necessary, it is not sufficient and should be complemented with organisational and management aspects for courts and judges, in line with the relevant guidelines of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice. Existing examples, such as the experience of the First Instance Court of Turin, prove that good results can thus be obtained even within the current framework and without additional financial or human resources.’

In just over a month, Amanda Knox’s book about her experiences in Perugia will be out. One assumes that Giuliano Mignini will fire her off one of his suits for criminal defamation, as he did when Sollecito’s book was published.

Books about Salem I

September 19, 2012

Raffaele Sollecito’s book about his experiences in Italy’s witch-burning capital (and until recently my provincial capital), Perugia, is out. I haven’t read it, but The Guardian has an early review.

There are no surprises about the tales of police brutality and incompetence, which I have discussed at length under the ‘Italy to Avoid’ tab.

The one thing that grabs me is that Sollecito says both his family and his lawyers urged him to not to provide evidence in support of Amanda Knox in the hope that the police might let him off (because all they really wanted to do was convict a witch). That is the Italian parenting and the Italian lawyers we know and love. It also explains Sollecito’s evidence in court that he ‘couldn’t remember’ precise details of Knox’s movements the night of the murder. He found some sort of moral half-way house between honesty and the demands of his family and lawyers.

Amanda Knox’s book, out next year, will be much more interesting than this one. It looks like she is taking the time to give Perugia and the Italian judicial system the deconstruction they deserve.

What price incompetence?

February 17, 2012

We now know. US$4m is to be paid for Amanda Knox’s story of torture at the hands of Italy’s ‘professional’ classes. It is a lot of money. But then the publishers have calculated that the appetite for a tale of medieval habits sustained in a modern society is considerable. I reckon they will get their money back. Italy is something truly special.


Here is Douglas Preston, who already wrote a book about Giuliano Mignini.

And mayonnaise all over

October 6, 2011

In the finest traditions of the Italian judiciary, the presiding judge in the Sollecito-Knox appeal — Claudio Pratillo Hellmann — has been giving interviews to the press.

You can guess what he said: this has been a terrible mess, creating appalling trauma for innocent people, in particular the Kercher family. We really have got to get an independent prosecution service set up — like the CPS in the UK — and start following our rules about criminal investigations. Plus, we need a full public enquiry into the whole thing, not least the conduct of the police, why no tapes of the Knox interviews were ever produced, allegations of physical attacks on journalists, and so on. And don’t even get me started on Mignini…

But of course I am joking. What Hellman really said (let me stress I have not had time to read the original text in Italian but John Hooper is a serious correspondent) is that it is quite possible Sollecito and Knox were party to the murder, that Mignini is at the top of his game, and that the issues are really very complicated.

Many open-minded Italians will forgive Hellman because his brave decision to do the only sensible thing and have the forensic ‘evidence’ looked at by more serious people decided the outcome of the case. He is likely just covering his fanny, as they say in America. But in covering his fanny he is ensuring that everything will stay the same. Which means that people less interesting, less white, less attractive and less well funded than Sollecito and Knox will continue to get stitched up unnecessarily.

Witch leaves Salem

October 4, 2011

Knox is gone. Not only that, she flew — which is pretty compelling evidence she is a witch. Let those four years inside be a lesson to other young people thinking of taking a student holiday in Italy and smoking a bit of dope. Just as well Knox and Sollecito didn’t grow their own and end up dead in Perugia’s Capanne prison, like the hippie who built our kitchen.

I forgot to remind readers yesterday who have not done so already to watch this short interview with the chief investigator in the Sollecito-Knox case. Arthur Miller must be eating his heart out. His play was only based on a true story.


Writer Douglas Preston on Mignini and the case, and Mignini’s form with respect to the earlier Tuscan serial killer case. What Preston says is no doubt true, but the Mignini focus tends to draw attention away from what are really systemic problems in Italy. Mignini is a symptom. The incompetence of the magistrates compounds the incompetence of the police and unlike the UK — with the Crown Prosecution Service — there is nothing in the middle of them to act as a circuit breaker.

Before Mr Giobbi undertakes his next ‘exquisitely psychological’ investigation, he would do well to read this.

John Hooper does a Q&A in the Guardian that gives answers I would agree with to a number of obvious and important questions.

The ones that got away

October 3, 2011

So Sollecito and Knox are out.

My immediate reaction is that this is consistent with the behaviour of a survivor institutional-retard state. It is another moment, to use the phrase which Lampedusa never quite used, when ‘everything must change so that everything can remain the same’.

Sollecito and Knox are free so that we can get back to business as usual. It’s a sort of mini Mani Pulite for the legal system.

Anecdotally, what stands out for me more than anything is ignorance. I have asked four separate Italian lawyers, two internationally renowned and two from my local town, what they think about the Sollecito-Knox case and each has said they are sure that in some sense they are guilty. But when you ask why, you realise they are ignorant of even basic facts in the case. A small dose of northern European puritan professionalism would go a long way in Italy. This is a society where no one is capable of saying ‘I don’t know’.

Worth paying attention to:

One of the great UK long-form journalists was in Perugia tonight:

10.31pm: Peter Popham of the Independent tweets:

Weird mood in Perugia’s medieval heart, thugs baying for Amanda’s blood, robbed of the witch they wanted to burn.

The video in court is very Italian, lots of extras on camera. Sollecito, who as a local always seemed to accept that a life in jail might be his fate is more together. Knox, who stood up a the start of the appeal and took the fight to the jury, is spent at this point.

John Hooper toys with the Perugia is different angle.

I am not so sure.

Monday’s coverage:

The second part of this article highlights the position that Italian ‘justice’ has left the Kerchers in. Their suffering goes on because of the grotesque unprofessionalism of the investigation and trial. The Kercher family will hold a press conference this morning that will be blogged here by the Guardian. Their anguish remains focused on the idea that the use of two knives and the number of wounds in the murder must have required more than Guede. I can’t speak to this or to the behaviour of sex attackers who use knives. What everyone can speak to is the fact that there was no motive and no evidence to put Sollecito and Knox in the bedroom where Meredith Kercher died and a huge amount of forensic evidence — hair, hand prints, finger prints, semen, other DNA — to put Guede there. I wonder if at the presser the Kerchers will mention the fact that Guede can expecct to be out of jail in only seven or eight years after his sentence was reduced on appeal (largely, I would say, to ‘fit’ with the wrongful convictions of Sollecito and Knox). If you run a legal system like a bunch of adoloscents, there will be a price to pay. Laid-back Italy doesn’t seem so cool today.

The Perugia shock blog reminds us that Knox’s 3-year, Euro22,000 criminal defamation conviction for saying the black bar owner she knew had committed the crime is UPHELD. This is very important because it is tantamount to saying the police did not intimidate and hit her during the illegal all-night interrogation for which no tape recordings have ever been produced. I have blogged before that the obvious explanation for her accusation against the bar owner, Patrick Lumumba, is that the first clearly identifiable forensic evidence the police found at the crime scene was the hair of a black male (Guede). They knew they were looking for a black man before they got the DNA match to Guede’s police record. And, in the middle of the night, subjecting Amanda Knox to the kind of pressure and sleep deprivation that produces false confessions everywhere, they got their black man (a mild-mannered barman according to people I know who know him).

(Note that the Perugia Shock blog, written by an Italian non-native English speaker, sometimes slips into the kind of emotional language that is not helpful to understanding the case. However in general it provides excellent, fine-grained coverage that you will not find in a newspaper. The author is being sued for guess what — criminal defamation — by Mignini.)


Want to read the rest of the stuff I have written about the Sollecito-Knox case? Just click on the ‘Sollecito and Knox’ tag (subject Categories and Tags are all listed in the right hand border).

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