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CRIME

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”.

READ ALSO Why France is having a long-overdue conversation about incest 

 

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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CRIME

French court acquits four over death of British schoolgirl

A French court on Wednesday acquitted three English teachers and a lifeguard accused over the 2015 drowning of a 12-year-old British schoolgirl in France.

French court acquits four over death of British schoolgirl

Jessica Lawson drowned in July 2015 after a swim in a lake with 23 other British children on a school trip. She died after the pontoon they were playing on capsized near Limoges in southwest central France.

The trial began Tuesday in nearby Tulle, attended by the child’s parents.

The suspects including the teachers from Hull, northeast England, and the lifeguard on duty at the time were charged with manslaughter caused by a “deliberate breach of safety or caution”.

The judges said on Wednesday there were too many elements in the case that were unclear including exactly when the child disappeared in the water.

The court also could not establish a link between the pontoon overturning and the schoolgirl’s death.

The local authority was also cleared of any role in the death.

It was the lifeguard who had found the missing child at the bottom of the lake (lac de la Triouzoune) on July 21 and she was airlifted to hospital. She died the next day.

The public prosecutor had requested a suspended sentence of three years for the teachers and the same for the lifeguard, who was 21 years old at the time, as well as a lifetime ban on doing similar work.

The suspects denied that they had failed to provide proper surveillance.

A lawyer for the schoolgirl’s family said they hoped the public prosecutor would appeal the court’s decision, pointing to many issues.

“A young girl of 12 disappeared, the pontoon was dangerous and there was an obvious lack of surveillance. Another court must hear this,” lawyer Eloi Chan told AFP.

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