An Italian court has convicted a cruise ship crewmember of sexual assault – and has acquitted the vessel's captain of charges of "fraudulent misrepresentation and failure to report" for failing to tell the Italian Coast Guard about the incident, and for stating in a report that there was no "extraordinary event" during the voyage.
The incident occurred three years ago on a cruise between Istanbul and Dubrovnik. The court found that the crewmember, Floriano Fernandes, attempted to sexually assault a 17-year-old girl in one of the ship's heads. She repelled the attack.
The prosecutors alleged that the master, Captain Ignatius Giardinia, had misdirected authorities. Giardinia is a 36-year veteran of the industry, and worked his way up from cadet to captain over three decades with the same cruise line; he is still listed as a master on the firm’s website.
The captain's attorney successfully argued that in Giardinia's understanding, an "extraordinary event" had meant a marine casualty in the traditional sense – a collision, allision, fire or other reportable incident – and that he had not intended to omit the complaint of sexual assault. Captain Giardinia was acquitted of all charges.
Fernandes was convicted of the attempted rape, and Judge Irene Casol sentenced him to ten months imprisonment.
Misrepresentation charges in MARPOL cases are common, but an admiralty lawyer specializing in cruise ships said that this was the only case he was aware of in which a captain had been charged for failure to report allegations of sexual assault.