Legal loophole sees Italian alleged teen rapist walk free over cruise ship attack

A cruise ship.
A cruise ship. Photo credit: Getty

An Italian teenager has temporarily walked free from a rape charge due to a legal technicality.

The 18-year-old was supposed to face court over the charges in Valencia, Spain, but the judge refused to rule as the alleged attack took place in international waters, the Independent reports.

A law change in 2009 means crimes can only be tried in Spain if the suspect or victim lives in Spain, so even though the victim reported the crime to Spanish police and the alleged attacker was arrested in Spain, a trial cannot take place there.

The victim, a British 17-year-old, told police the attacker forced his way into her cabin on board the MSC Divina as it sailed through the Mediterranean on Thursday.

She was examined at La Fe Hospital in Valencia and continued on the cruise towards Italy with her family.

The Spanish judge's decision does not make the end of the case. The judge suggested authorities in Italy, Britain or Panama take up the case.

The MSC Divina is registered in Panama.

A spokesperson for the cruise line, MSC Cruises, said an investigation was taking place and it could not comment on the case.

"This is a matter that relates to guests who were travelling on board one of our ships.

"Within this context, our company is fully cooperating with the authorities overseeing this investigation, but is not itself in any way subject to it."

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was providing consular assistance to the victim.

"Our consular staff are providing support and assistance to a British woman and her family following an incident on board a cruise ship," it said.

Newshub.

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