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French parliament backs law to set age of consent at 15

French lawmakers backed a bill late on Monday setting the minimum age of sexual consent at 15.

French parliament backs law to set age of consent at 15
The bill has been been by the French parliament. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Members of the Assemblée nationale, the lower house of parliament, voted unanimously to bring France’s consent laws in line with most other Western countries, following a wave of allegations of sexual abuse and incest described as France’s second #MeToo movement.

Under the bill, sex with children under 15 would be considered rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, unless there is a small age gap between the two partners – the so-called ‘Romeo and Juliet clause’.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said the vote sent a clear message: “Children are off-limits”.

Under current French law, prosecutors have to prove that a minor was forced, threatened or tricked into having sex with an adult in order to bring charges of rape or sexual assault.

The draft law was initiated by members of the Senate, who had suggested the age of consent be set at 13, which would have been one of the lowest in Europe.

But President Emmanuel Macron’s government pushed for it to be set higher.

The bill does allow for sex between a teen and a young adult up to five years older — a gap criticised by some MPs as too large but which Dupond-Moretti defended, saying he did not want “to put a youngster aged 18 on trial because he had consensual sex with a girl aged fourteen and a half.”

The bill, which was the subject of some 300 amendments in the Assemblée nationale, now returns to the Senate for a final vote.

The legislation also cracks down on online paedophilia, with any person caught trying to groom children aged under 15 for sexual acts over the internet facing up to 10 years in prison and a fine of €150,000.

The issue of consent has repeatedly come up for debate since 2018 when it emerged that a 28-year-old man, who had sex with an 11-year-old girl he met in a park, had initially been charged with a lesser sexual offence, not rape.

The country’s top appeals court is this week set to rule on another case involving allegations of child abuse.

The case was brought by a woman, named as “Julie” in press reports, who claims she was raped by over 20 firefighters when she was aged 13-15 and was repeatedly hospitalised for severe anxiety attacks.

The accused claimed she consented to sex, which she denies.

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CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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