French prosecutors dismiss close to 20,000 complaints against ministers

The Court of Justice of the Republic has closed down 19,685 legal complaints brought against the French Prime Minister, Health Minister and Education Minister over their handling of the pandemic.

French anti-vaccine lawyer, Fabrice Di Vizio, helped lodge nearly 20,000 claims against French government ministers.
French anti-vaccine lawyer, Fabrice Di Vizio, helped lodge nearly 20,000 claims against French government ministers. This legal action has been dismissed. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

French prosecutors announced on Monday that 19,685 of legal complaints filed against the Prime Minister and cabinet members responsible for health and education had been dismissed. 

The man behind the complaints was a controversial anti-vaccine lawyer called Fabrice di Vizio, who sold access to a template online for those wishing to launch a legal challenge against the government. Di Vizio is best known for defending Didier Raoult, the French scientists who controversially touted hydroxychloroquine as a ‘cure’ for Covid.

Thousands of the criminal claims were more or less identical and targeted the politicians for their handling of the pandemic. 

Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran were accused of “failure to stop a disaster”, which is a crime punishable by two years of imprisonment and a €30,000 fine.

The Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer was accused in the claims of “extortion”, with plaintiffs arguing that he was “forcing people to get vaccinated.”

Di Vizio is currently under investigation by the Paris Bar Council for having lodged the complaints against the French government in the first place. He has stepped back from the legal profession and has said he would sell shares in his legal practice. 

The complaints had been initially been filed at the Court of Justice of the Republic, a special institution created in 1993 to prosecute ministers. 

In 2020, before Di Vizio filed his claims, it launched a wide-reaching investigation into the handling of the pandemic by the government and health authorities. Olivier Véran’s home and offices were raided by police – the same happened to the country’s Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon. 

Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and former government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye were also thought to have been under investigation. None of these figures were eventually charged. 

But in September 2021, this court did charge the former Health Minister Agnes Buzyn with “endangering the lives of others”.

READ MORE What next after France’s former health minister charged over Covid crisis?

Buzyn had controversially said in January 2020 that there was “practically no risk” of Covid-19 spreading to France from the Chinese city of Wuhan, and then went on to say that the “risk of a spread of the coronavirus among the population is very small”. She stepped down as health minister in February 2020 in order to contest the Paris mayoral election.

Her case is ongoing.

France’s Court of Justice was created in 1993 especially to prosecute ministers, with the aim of making it easier to hold them accountable for failures in office. 

The special court, called the court of justice of the republic, was created in 1993 to prosecute ministers as a way of improving accountability due to perceptions that cabinet members were able to escape legal censure for their actions in office.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.