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Court clears man of groping ‘because it lasted for seconds’ – sparking protests on TikTok

An Italian court’s decision to clear a janitor who groped a schoolgirl because he did it for “just a few seconds” has sparked outrage.

The girl, who was 17 at the time of the incident, said the man approached her from behind, put his hands in her knickers and slightly lifted her in the air as she pulled up her trousers after walking up a staircase with a friend.

A panel of judges said in their ruling that the “whole thing last about five to 10 seconds” and was done without “libidinous or lusty intent”.

The 66-year-old said he reached for the back of the girl’s trousers at the school in the Ostiense neighbourhood of Rome “as a joke”.

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Afterwards he pleaded with the girl to let it pass, telling her: “You will ruin my life, I didn’t do anything to you.”

In their verdict, dated 6 July, a panel of judges concluded that the inappropriate gesture was so brief that it left “ample doubts” on whether it was voluntary, and found the argument that it was in jest “convincing”.

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Andrea Buitoni, a lawyer for the girl, told the Fanpage news site that the decision would “definitely” be appealed.

“This is not the way an old man jokes with a 17-year-old girl. At least that’s what I think,” the girl was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera newspaper, which said she has just turned 18.

The verdict has triggered an online protest, with thousands of social media users posting videos of themselves touching intimate body parts with the hashtags #10seconds and #quickgrope.

Actor and comedian Paolo Camilli – who stars in The White Lotus – is among those involved in the online campaign.

He posted a TikTok video of him fondling his chest for 10 seconds, and said: “If this is not harassment, what is?”

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