• France's news in English

Justice blunder: Minister furious as criminals freed

Ben McPartland · 8 Aug 2013, 10:50

Published: 08 Aug 2013 10:50 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

France’s politicians came in for some flak this week after it was revealed a court ruling could lead to the early release of possibly hundreds of prisoners in the latest furore to hit France's strained judicial system.

Weekly satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé, known also for its investigative journalism, claimed on Wednesday that a recent ruling by the Court of Cassation,- effectively France's supreme court - could have a dramatic impact.

In June this year, the newspaper reports, the appeal court judged that a right-wing government's 2004 decree on the statute of limitations - the period of time after a crime is committed in which a suspect can be convicted - was null and void.

The decree was made by a previous Minister of Justice to prevent suspects walking free if they had not been brought to justice within a certain period of time after the crime – which stands at 20 years for felonies and 5 years for minor crimes or misdemeanours.

However, the court of appeal, asked to rule on the case of an Albanian man sentenced in absentia to life in prison in 1989, ruled the decree was illegal because any change in law must be ratified by parliament and not simply by decree.

France’s Justice Minister Christiane Taubira reacted with fury against her predecessors.

“I am extremely concerned by the negligence of successive governments on the Right, who have taken considerable risks to the security of French people and to the protection of victims,” she said.

Taubira told BFMTV on Wednesday, however, that she would ensure no dangerous criminal would be released.

According to reports in French media, a total of 3,499 prisoners could be eligible for release. So far, out of the 800 or so cases studied, six inmates have been set free.

They include criminals convicted of robbery, armed robbery, domestic violence and check forgery, Taubira said.

France’s Union of Magistrates (USM) called upon politicians to take responsibility.

“This is not a miscarriage of justice, it is a failure of the government and the Ministry of Justice at the time, who by taking this decree, made a mistake,” USM president Christophe Regnard told France Info radio.

“I cannot help but think what the politicians would be saying today if it had been judges that had ballsed up this order,” he added.

Story continues below…

The blunder could spell further problems for the state with those wrongly jailed likely to launch lawsuits against the government.

The revelation comes just days after headlines in France were dominated by the release of three convicted criminals in the town of Dreux, simply because authorities could find no places in prison for them.

In June, The Local reported how France’s prison population had swelled to record levels provoking prison guards to stage a walkout and blockade jails across the country. 

And in the same month the penal system was left rad-faced when a judge freed a prisoner because his cell was exposed to wind and rain.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Homeless man does a runner from France's top restaurants
Photo: Prayitno/Flickr

"A man's gotta eat," he told police, after racking up gigantic bills in some of France's plushest restaurants.

Underwater museum hopes to make a splash in Marseille
A similar underwater museum piece by Jason deCaires Taylor. Photo: julie rohloff/Flickr

Don't forget your scuba gear...

Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Photo: Jacme/Flickr

Move over Paris...

And France's top chef of the year is... 'Monsieur Idiot'
Alexandre Couillon might have an unfortunate name, but he can sure cook!. Photo: AFP

Look beyond the name. He's the man who turned his family's humble "moules frites" joint into one of France's best seafood restaurants.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
Want to drive a scooter around Paris? Here's what you need to know
jobs available