Italy’s highest court has ruled that masturbation in public is not a crime, as long as it is not conducted in the presence of minors.
The decision came down from the Italian Supreme Court — La Corte di Cassazione — in the case of a 69-year-old man, identified only as “PL,” who was caught masturbating in Catania, a city on Sicily’s east coast.
The man was convicted in May 2015 after he performed the act in front of students on the University of Catania campus, according to documents filed with Supreme Court. The man was sentenced to three months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of €3,200 (around $3,600).
However, the defendant’s lawyer appealed the case to the country’s highest court, which ruled on the side of the accused in June but only just made its decision public. Judges ruled that public masturbation out of the presence of minors is no longer deemed criminal conduct due to a change in the law last year, which decriminalized the act.
The new iteration of the criminal code does call for imprisonment — of up to four-and-a-half years — if the act is witnessed by a minor.
In light of this ruling, the court overturned “PL’s” sentence. The case has been sent back to local courts in Catania to determine exactly what the administrative fine — between €5,000 ($5,651) and €30,000 ($33,912) — will be.
Public masturbation remains a criminal offense in many other parts of the world, where it can lead to a jail sentence.