13 Oct 2013

Berlusconi requests community service

2:05 pm on 13 October 2013

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has formally asked to serve his twelve-month sentence for tax fraud by doing community service rather than remain under house arrest.

The centre-right leader, 77, was sentenced to four years in jail in August, commuted to one, for masterminding a massive tax fraud scheme at his Mediaset television empire.

Because of his age he is considered certain to be allowed to stay out of prison, making either house arrest or community service the most likely ways that he would serve his sentence, Reuters reports.

If his request is accepted, a court in Rome will decide what kind of service he will do.

Criminals assigned to community service normally work in non-profit organisations such as soup kitchens for the homeless, centres for drug addicts or groups offering assistance to the elderly.

Mr Berlusconi initially rejected the option of community service, saying he would feel like a common criminal.

Under Italy's notoriously slow legal system, Berlusconi is therefore unlikely to begin his sentence until early 2014.

He will not serve it at all if his crimes are included in legislation that parliament is working on to pardon thousands of criminals in response to an appeal by President Giorgio Napolitano to ease overcrowding in prisons.