Domestic violence and rape cases on rise in France as lockdown causes other crimes to fall

Covid-19 lockdowns sparked a big drop in the number of reported crimes in France last year, except for domestic violence and rape cases which continued to rise, the interior ministry said on Thursday.

Domestic violence and rape cases on rise in France as lockdown causes other crimes to fall
The hotline to report domestic violence in France is 3919. Photo: AFP

As a result of “exceptional circumstances” brought on by the coronavirus epidemic, which prompted two lockdowns in 2020 and other restrictions, most crime indicators registered by police “dropped sharply”, the ministry's statistics bureau said.

Rape and domestic violence cases, however, saw a third straight yearly increase, of 11 percent and nine percent respectively, from their 2019 levels.

Cases of sexual violence overall, including rape, increased by three percent, it said.

The ministry said the higher number of reported cases involving violence against women in recent years was as a result of the victims' greater readiness to alert police and post their experiences on social media, encouraged by movements such as “Me Too”.

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They also credited police for their improved handling of sexual violence cases.

The number of registered cases was, however, still far below the amount of actual assaults, the ministry said.

Cases of domestic violence reached their 2020 peak during the first French lockdown between March and May.

Meanwhile, the number of robberies, armed robberies, break-ins, car thefts, and cases of vandalism all fell by up to 20 percent, the ministry reported.

During the lockdown periods alone, robberies and break-ins plunged by nearly 60 percent.

Fraud cases were up over the year, but by just one percent, against an 11 percent increase in 2019.

The hotline to report domestic violence in France is 3919, and you can also access help by using the code 'mask 19' at any pharmacy or call police on 17. The charity Women for Women France offers help to people who do not speak French.

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Prosecutor demands suspended sentence for French ex-president Sarkozy

France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy should be handed a suspended one-year prison sentence for illegal campaign financing, a prosecutor has told an appeals court.

Prosecutor demands suspended sentence for French ex-president Sarkozy

The lead prosecutor’s sentence recommendation is a more lenient term than his original conviction.

Sarkozy has faced a litany of legal problems since his sole term in office from 2007 until 2012 and has been charged separately with corruption, bribery, influence-peddling as well as breaking campaign financing laws.

In the so-called “Bygmalion affair”, Sarkozy was sentenced to one year in prison in September 2021 on charges that his right-wing party, then known as the UMP, worked with a public relations firm to hide the true cost of his 2012 re-election bid.

“Vigorously” denying any wrongdoing, Sarkozy appealed against the sentence which the court at the time said should take the shape of electronically controlled house arrest.

In his closing statement at the appeal trial, prosecutor Bruno Revel said that he still considered Sarkozy guilty of “knowingly breaching the legal campaign spending limit”, but not of having created, or been aware of, the illegal methods of hiding it.

Revel said the ex-president should be handed a suspended sentence of one year.

Sarkozy spent nearly €43million on his 2012 campaign, almost double the permitted amount of €22.5million, according to the accusation.

In October, Sarkozy was charged in a separate witness tampering case relating to alleged Libyan financing of his 2007 presidential win.

Despite his legal woes, Sarkozy remains a hugely influential figure on the French right, courted by politicians and writing books that are major publishing events.

Sarkozy’s lawyers were due to deliver their closing statement in the appeal on Friday.