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CRIME

Domestic violence: The 10 things France will do to stop women being murdered

The French government has announced a major rethink of the way that domestic violence is dealt with after it was revealed that 101 women have been killed by a current or former partner so far this year in France. Here are the 10 measures.

Domestic violence: The 10 things France will do to stop women being murdered
One of the many ad hoc memorials in Paris to victims of domestic violence. Photo: The Local

The horrifying statistics lead to a widespread grassroots campaign urging the government to look again at a system that does not currently protect women from violence at the hands of their partners or ex partners.

France is one of the European countries with the highest number of such murders, according to EU figures from 2017 which put it second only to Germany.


French prime minister Edouard Philippe, centre, launches the consultation with equality minister Marlène Schiappa and domestic violence campaigners. Photo: AFP

Last year, 121 women were killed in France in these circumstances, equating to one death every three days. So far this year, at least 101 women have been killed by a current or former partner.

“For centuries, women have been buried under our indifference, denial, carelessness, age-old machismo and incapacity to look this horror in the face,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday, launching a major consultation on domestic violence grouping dozens of ministers, judges, police officers, victims' relatives and representatives of feminist groups.

Here are the measures outlined by the government;

1. The creation of 1,000 new places in shelters for women fleeing from violent partners.

2. Women who are victims of domestic violence will benefit from a Visale guarantee, or free rental deposit, making the search for new housing in the private sector easier.

3. A new geolocation platform will be launched on November 25th which will enable professionals like social workers and housing officers quickly identify the nearest accommodation for women who are fleeing violent partners.


The memorial reads 'Julie, killed at the age of 35 by her ex husband. 30th victim of femicide [in 2019]. Photo: The Local

4. Electronic tagging of men who are the subject of a restraining order or protection order. Within 48 hours of the order being made by a court, the subject of the order will be tagged and an alert will sound if he approaches the victim or a place he is barred from under the terms of the order.

5. Auditing of 400 French police stations throughout September to ensure that the all have the correct level of training and are offering an effective and consistent service to victims of domestic violence.

 6. Police will be issued with a risk assessment grid that will help them determine the level of risk that the women is facing.

7. Women will also be able to file a complaint from a hospital, rather than having to go to a police station.

8. A new feedback method will be introduced into the offices of public prosecutors to asses how perpetrators of domestic violence are being dealt with by the judicial system.

9. Judges in criminal cases involving domestic violence will also be able to withdraw custody rights from abusive fathers, rather than having to wait for the case to be dealt with by the family court.

10. In cases involving femicide, parental rights will be automatically suspended if the father is a suspect or under investigation, rather than having to wait for a charge.

To mark the government's heightened action on the issue, President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday visited the office of a domestic violence hotline in Paris and listened in to calls as they came in. 

He heard the call of a woman who had decided to leave her abusive husband tell one of the hotline operators that the police were refusing to assist her.

“You're in the police station? You're in danger. your husband is at home. The police can accompany you,” the operator, Elena, assured the caller.

However, an officer of the military police came on the line and said that he needed a judicial order to intervene.

The unheard President Macron shook his head and wrote notes to help the operator. 

“It's the gendarme's job to protect her when the risk if evident,” with or without any extra judicial permission, the note said.

However, the gendarme on the other end of the phone insisted it wasn't his place to intervene.

“Does that happen often?” Macron asked Elena.

“Oh yes, more and more frequently,” came the reply.

Feminist groups welcomed the focus on the issue, but said that the government's failure to commit a budget to the measures was disappointing.

“No resources have been announced so frankly the announcements are disappointing,” Caroline De Haas, founder of the group Osez Le Feminisme (Dare To Be Feminist), said.

 

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CRIME

French court jails for life sole surviving Paris 2015 attacker

The sole surviving member of an Islamic State terror cell that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015 was handed a whole-life sentence on Wednesday at the end of a trial that aimed to draw a line under the worst peace-time atrocity in modern French history.

French court jails for life sole surviving Paris 2015 attacker

Salah Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan origin, was captured alive by police four months after the bloodbath at the Bataclan concert hall and other locations.

His sentence, the toughest possible, was read out by the head of five-judge panel overseeing the trial of 20 men accused of involvement in the assault on the capital.

Wearing a khaki-coloured polo shirt, he stood motionless and showed no emotion as he was declared guilty and sentenced by chief judge Louis Peries during an hour-long speech.

“The sentences are quite heavy,” one tearful survivor, Sophie, told AFP as she left the court in central Paris. “I feel a lot of relief. Ten months of hearings — it’s helped us to rebuild.”

The trial has been the biggest in modern French history, the culmination of a six-year international investigation whose findings run to more than a million pages.

READ MORE: The difficult and emotional search for truth at France’s biggest terrorism trial

The other 19 suspects, accused of either plotting or offering logistical support, were also found guilty, with their sentences ranging from two years to life in prison.

All of the attackers except for Abdeslam blew themselves up or were killed by police during or after the assault.

Hundreds of victims and witnesses packed out the benches of the specially constructed courtroom as the sentences were read out.

“My first reaction is that we have the feeling of turning a page after the verdicts,” Gerard Chemla, a lawyer representing victims at the trial, told reporters.

Change of heart?

Abdeslam had begun his appearances last September by defiantly declaring himself as an “Islamic State fighter” but finished tearfully apologising to victims and asking for leniency.

In his final statement, he urged the judges not to give him a full-life term, seeking to emphasise that he had not killed anyone himself.

“I made mistakes, it’s true. But I’m not a murderer, I’m not a killer,” he said.

His lawyers had also argued against the whole-life sentence, which prosecutors had demanded.

It offers only a small chance of parole after 30 years and has been pronounced only four times previously since being created in 1994.

Abdeslam, a one-time pot-smoking lover of parties, discarded his suicide belt on the night of the attack and fled back to his hometown, Brussels, where many of the extremists lived.

He told the court that he had had a change of heart and decided not to kill people.

“I changed my mind out of humanity, not out of fear,” he insisted.

But after hearing that his suicide belt was defective, the judges concluded that this “cast serious doubt” on his apparent “renunciation”.

They ruled he was a “co-author” of the attacks which “constituted a single crime scene.” 

Trauma

A team of 10 jihadists laid siege to the French capital, attacking the national sports stadium, bars, and the Bataclan in an assault immediately claimed from Syria by the IS group.

The attacks shocked France, with the choice of targets and the manner of the violence seemingly designed to inflict maximum fear, just 10 months after a separate assault on the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

In one instance, the court heard a recording of gunmen taunting people trapped in the Bataclan as they fired on them with Kalashnikov machine guns from a balcony above.

The huge loss of life marked the start of a gruesome and violent period in Europe as IS ramped up attacks across the continent.

France, under then president Francois Hollande, declared the country “at war” with the extremists and their self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Hollande, who testified in November, called the trial “exceptional” and “exemplary”, adding in a statement that the accused had been “judged with respect for the law”.

The 10-month process had “enabled us to look for the truth in order to better understand the course of Islamist terrorism”, he said.

Other culprits

In the absence of the rest of the attackers, the men on trial besides Abdeslam were suspected of offering mostly logistical support or plotting other attacks. 

Only 14 out of the 20 appeared in person, with the rest missing, presumed dead.

One of them, Mohamed Abrini, admitted to driving some of the Paris attackers to the capital and explained how he was meant to take part but backed out.

The court handed him a life sentence with 22 years as a minimum term.

Also on trial was Swedish citizen Osama Krayem, who has been identified in a notorious IS video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.

He was sentenced to 30 years in jail and ordered to serve two thirds of it behind bars, as was fellow jihadist Sofian Ayari, a Tunisian arrested along with Abdeslam in Brussels in March 2015.

The pair were suspected of planning an attack on Amsterdam airport.

All of the convicted are able to appeal their verdicts and sentences.

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