A paedophile trial involving parents accused of renting out their children for cash, food and cigarettes has begun in France. The case in the western town of Angers has provoked shock and soul searching, with government agencies claimed to have ignored warning signs.
A total of 66 men and women face charges ranging from failing to report abuse to rape and sexual assault.
Prosecution lawyer Pascal Rouiller said many of the children were sexually abused or raped when they were very young. “One of those I’m defending today is in the box next to his father,” he explains. “His father who is none other than the person who abused him a few years ago. You can imagine the way he feels inside, you can imagine the moral compass this boy has now.”
The victims aged from six months to 12 years old at the time of the alleged crimes, between 1999 and 2002.
A total of 45 youngsters are involved.
Defence lawyer Meriem Baba-Ronciere cast doubt on the pre-recorded statements the children have made.
“The accused are their parents, grandparents, uncles, cousins. It’s extremely difficult because they have a conflict of loyalty – if one accuses mum or dad then they’ll go to prison and they won’t come back,” she said.
Most of the alleged abuse took place at the home of a former convicted sex offender.
The men and women involved lived in poverty, often out of work and claiming benefits.
A verdict is due in June, with sentences predicted to range from three years to life.