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French row deepens over repeat offenders bill

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French row deepens over repeat offenders bill


France’s under-fire Justice Minister Rachida Dati has faced down her critics in the country’s lower house of Parliament. Dati has presented her controversial bill proposing tougher sentences for repeat offenders for debate – despite widespread scepticism.

“I want our country to have a justice system which is noble, clear and understandable for everyone – and equally accessible for all.”, she told deputies in the National Assembly.

The bill was labelled “potentially dangerous” when it was debated in the Upper House. Critics like Noel Mamère from the Greens say Dati’s planned legislation will make overcrowding in France’s prisons even worse:

“This law is dangerous, it is pointless, it will help to criminalise many of our young people and will contribute to the number of inmates in our already overburdened jails”

Dati is the first person of north african heritage to hold a senior cabinet post in France. The 41-year-old was appointed Justice Minister in May after the election of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Both Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia have defended Dati in the past week after it was revealed four members of her personal staff had resigned.

She is in a difficult position says Socialist Party Senator Bariza Khiari:

“Dati is caught in the crossfire between the old guard who can only see immigrants as illiterates and not in any position of influence, and those who share her background and who feel she has betrayed her heritage by casting her lot in with the Right”

By an unfortunate coincidence, Dati’s bill was debated on the same day her brother Jamal was due in court in the north-eastern city of Nancy.

He is appealing against a six month suspended prison sentence for drug dealing and has pleaded for his personal difficulties not to be reflected onto his sister.

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