On 20th September 2023, the bill concerning the “Introduction of the crime of nautical homicide and the crime of nautical personal injury” was definitively approved.
The new provisions broaden the content of Articles 589-bis and 590-bis of the Criminal Code, which – until now – had covered the offences of vehicular homicide and vehicular grievous, or very grievous, bodily harm.
The new provisions introduce additional “nautical” offences into the legal system, without innovating with respect to what is already provided for the corresponding traffic offences. The two types of offence, in fact, share the same structure and are articulated in a substantially similar way.
The amendment has very significant consequences with regard to penalties.
Until now, this type of offences, if committed in the maritime context, fell under the scope of Articles 589 and 590 of the Criminal Code (manslaughter and culpable injuries) and consequently were subject to much lower penalties when compared to the ‘road’ offences introduced in 2016.
As of now, however, the penalties for perpetrators of murder or grievous bodily harm committed “through violation of the rules of maritime or inland navigation” will be more severe.
With reference to the scope of application of the new rules, it is particularly relevant to note that the aggravated offences provided for in the paragraphs following the first one (alcoholic intoxication, consumption of narcotic substances) are expressly limited to those who drive “one of the pleasure crafts referred to in Article 3 of the Code of Pleasure Navigation”.
The above-mentioned restriction, which is not contemplated by the first paragraph of the same article, should have the consequence of excluding the application of the paragraphs following the first one to vessels which are not pleasure craft.
Two other provisions are of considerable relevance with regard to navigation.
The first is the one providing for a less severe penalty treatment for all those cases where the event is due to contributory negligence.
In practice, such an eventuality occurs very frequently, e.g. in cases of collisions between vessels at sea.
The second is the one that, on the contrary, sets an increase in punishment in the event that the event causes death or injury to more than one person.
This too, in fact, is a hypothesis which could easily occur in the case of collisions between vessels during sea navigation.
In conclusion, it is considered appropriate to point out that the wording of the text leads to uncertainties as to the applicability of the various paragraphs of Articles 589-bis and 590-bis, respectively to pleasure craft only or also to vessels which are not pleasure craft.