Firemen face probe over ‘group rape’ of girl

French prosecutors have extended a probe into allegations that about 20 firemen had sex with an under-age girl who was taken advantage of after calling for assistance, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Lawyer Rodolphe Costantino said prosecutors in Versailles had extended their investigation to include about 10 more suspects, after initially charging three firefighters in March 2011 for having sex with the girl between 2008, when she was only 13, and 2010.

The girl has said she had sex with about 20 firefighters over the period after starting a sexual relationship with one firefighter who had been called in after she suffered a seizure.

"The Versailles prosecutor's office has extended the investigation," Costantino said. "It now targets possibly half of the incidents my client has exposed, about 10 firefighters from Paris and different stations in the Paris region… It's a first step."

The suspects are facing charges of rape, sexual assault and corruption of a minor for having sex with someone under 15, France's age of consent.

The Versailles prosecutor's office refused to comment on the case because it involves a minor.

The girl came forward to her parents about the abuse and filed a complaint after attempting suicide in 2010.

Though highly respected in France, where they often act as general first-responders as well as fighting fires, firefighters have suffered from a series of sex-related scandals in recent years.

On Thursday a court in Abbeville in northern France convicted a firefighter of corrupting a minor and gave him a four-month suspended sentence after a teenage girl had sex with several firefighters at their station in 2010.

In Paris, 11 firefighters were charged after a recruit alleged in May that he was raped in an initiation ceremony filmed with a telephone.

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France dismisses sex abuse cover-up probe into Cardinal

A French prosecutor dismissed on Monday a probe into allegations that Cardinal Philippe Barbarin covered up the sexual abuse of scouts, in a case which shook the country's Catholic Church.

France dismisses sex abuse cover-up probe into Cardinal
Photo: AFP

Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon in central France since 2002, had been accused of failing to remove a priest from his diocese when he became aware the man had sexually abused young boys 25 years ago.

Barbarin has said he learned in 2007 that the priest, Bernard Preynat, had been accused of sexually abusing Scouts in the past.

Preynat was only charged in January after a victim who was allegedly abused in the 1980s realised in 2015 that the priest was still in service.

Several other victims have also come forward.

Barbarin has said that when he learned of the priest's past he immediately called a meeting with him and when he asked Preynat if he had committed further abuses since 1991 the priest swore he had not.

“You can reproach me for having believed him… but covering up means knowing and letting it happen,” Barbarin said, adding he had “absolutely never” done that.

Prosecutors say Preynat — who was removed from service in 2015 — has admitted the charges.

When complaints were first made against him in the 1980s, he was merely suspended for a few months.

The victims have filed complaints against several senior diocesan officials, including Barbarin, accusing them of failing to report the priest or remove him from duty despite being aware of his past.

Barbarin has admitted to “errors in the management and nomination of certain priests”.

After the scandal erupted, he in June relieved four priests of their functions over sexual abuse allegations.

The scandal was the worst to hit the Catholic Church in France since 2001, when a bishop was given a three-month suspended jail sentence for failing to inform authorities about a paedophile priest.