Jailed French mayor accused of distributing sexual photos of political rival

A French mayor serving a jail sentence for money laundering is due back in court on Tuesday, after he and his wife were accused of distributing intimate photos of a political rival.

Jailed French mayor accused of distributing sexual photos of political rival
Patrick and Isabelle Balkany, pictured with their lawyer (right) in 2021. Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP

Patrick and Isabelle Balkany were convicted of money laundering and tax fraud in 2019, in a case that goes back decades, during which they were the mayor and deputy of the exclusive Paris suburb of Levallois-Peret.

After breaching licence conditions Patrick Balkany, 73, was jailed earlier this year.

But on Tuesday he will be summoned back to court to answer charges of “using a document relating to images of a sexual nature and obtained by an invasion of the privacy of others”.

Isabelle Balkany remains in hospital and will not attend the court.

The charge relates to WhatsApp messages sent to mairie staff by Isabelle Balkany that contained sexual images of one of their political rivals, in an apparent attempt to smear him.

According to BFMTV, the couple say that they received the images anonymously through the mail, and were only attempting to warn others that the photos were circulating. It is unclear whether the images are genuine or Photoshopped.

Tuesday’s hearing is an administrative hearing only and no decision will be made. The charge of distributing sexual images without the subject’s consent carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail and a €6,000 fine. 

READ ALSO Who are the Balkanys, France’s power couple mired in endless scandal?

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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.