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SEX

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

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

A convicted murderer linked to one of Italy's most powerful mafia organisations was arrested on Thursday in central France, Interpol said.

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

Edgardo Greco, 63, is suspected of belonging to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta, a powerful mafia organisation in Calabria, southern Italy.

He is wanted in Italy to serve a life sentence for the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe Bartolomeo, and accused of the attempted murder of Emiliano Mosciaro “as part of a mafia war between the Pino Sena and Perna Pranno gangs that marked the early 1990s”, Interpol said.

The Bartolomeo brothers were beaten to death with iron bars in a fish warehouse, Italian police said.

Greco’s arrest in central France came with help for Italy and France from the “Cooperation against ‘Ndrangheta Project” (I-CAN) run by Interpol, which facilitates police cooperation between its 195 member states.

READ ALSO: Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, quoted in Interpol’s statement, said the arrests demonstrated his country’s commitment to “fighting all forms of organised crime and locating dangerous fugitives”.

The ‘Ndrangheta is considered Italy’s most extensive and powerful mafia group, Interpol said, operating worldwide and with strong ties to the trade in cocaine bound for Europe from South America

I-CAN’s job is help raise awareness of ‘Ndrangheta and their modus operandi, sharing police information to dismantle their networks and operations, the agency said.

The arrest of Greco, who worked in the evenings in a pizza restaurant under an assumed named according to Italian media, came a week after Italian police said it had dismantled a ‘Ndrangheta mafia ring dominating a large area of southern Calabria and seized assets exceeding 250 million euros.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

The arrest of Greco comes just over two weeks after Italian police arrested one of the most notorious bosses of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, who had been on the run for 30 years.

The 60-year-old was arrested after visiting a health clinic where he was being treated in the Sicilian capital Palermo

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