A court in France has been handing down verdicts in the country’s largest ever paedophile case. At least 62 people have been given jail terms of up to 28 years in the western town of Angers. The court has been hearing how some of the defendants prostituted their own children.
Five people at the heart of the child sex ring have been sentenced to more than a hundred years in prison. In total, 65 men and women stood accused of sexually abusing their own and other children between January 1999 and February 2002. Prosecutors say children as young as six months old were offered for sex – often in exchange for small sums of money or a packet of cigarettes. The jury has had to decide on nearly 2,000 during the five month trial, estimated to have cost five million euros. After the collapse of massive child sex abuse hearing at Outreau last year, the ability of the French authorities was also in question.
The trial took place with limited media coverage and witnesses are said to have undergone extensive pre-trial cross examination. Critics say many of the accused seemed confused and may not have fully followed the proceedings, while for others it was just another day in court. Social Service director, Christian Gillet, says there were a few repeat offenders on trial who’d been convicted for rape in other parts of France. “At the time there didn’t exist a central register for sex offenders like there is in Britain,” he says. The law has since changed but France has been horrified by the disturbing revelations and there may still be wide-ranging ramifications for authorities. Many have questioned how such crimes could happen in a poor district where most of the accused and their victims were on the watch list of social services.