Interior Minister Hortefeux slams prison sentences on bent cops
French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux has raised a political storm by criticising jail sentences passed on police officers who had framed a suspect. The Socialist opposition has accused of implicitly supporting cops who demonstrated against the magtistrate’s decision on Friday.
About 200 police officers, some in uniform and in police cars with sirens blaring and lights flashing, staged a spontaneous protest outside law courts in Bobigny on the outskirts of Paris on Friday.
They were enraged by prison terms of six months to a year handed down to seven of their colleagues who had falsely accused a man of deliberately driving into them.
“This judgement could legitimately seem disproportionate to the security forces,” said Hortefeux, who is known for his tough stance on law and order.
And the local prefect of police, Christian Lambert, a former police officer who was appointed by President Nicolas Sarkozy last June, rushed to the men’s police station and declared himself “astonished” by the decision.
The case arose from a car chase in the working-class area of Aulnay-sous-Bois last September.
Police chased a stolen car and one of their number was injured in the leg when a police car hit him.
His colleagues then accused the man of deliberately driving into them and drew up false statements to that effect. During the arrest they knocked the man to the ground.
Although the prosecution had only asked for suspended sentences of three to six months, the magistrates dished out tough terms because they judged the offences serious. The guilty men are to appeal.
Police unions have protested at the verdicts, while the magistrate’s union has protested at the statements of Hortefeux and Lambert.
Socialist politicians have called for action to be taken against officials “who public question the judiciary”.
“You can’t make grand speeches telling young people to respect the law and not respect our country’s judicial system,” said Socialist leader Martine Aubry Saturday.
Frustrated by a high crime rate in the area where the events took place, police have often accused magistrates of being soft on criminals.
A year ago some refused to charge suspects because magistrates insisted that lawyers should be present during questioning.
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