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Four months in jail for Frenchman who slapped Macron across the face

A French court on Thursday sentenced a man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron across the face this week to a prison term of 18 months, 14 of which were suspended.

Four months in jail for Frenchman who slapped Macron across the face
Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron greeting crowds later in the day. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Damien Tarel, a 28-year-old medieval history enthusiast, has been in custody since the assault on Tuesday which a prosecutor at the hearing called “absolutely unacceptable” and “an act of deliberate violence”.

Tarel was placed under arrest following the verdict from the court in the southern city of Valence and will spend the night in jail as he begins his sentence.

In its verdict, the court followed a recommendation from prosecutors for an 18-month sentence, but said he should serve only four, after a fast-track hearing.

Tarel had risked a maximum three-year jail sentence and a fine of €45,000.

Under French law, prison sentences of less than two years can be converted into non-custodial punishment.

The long-haired history buff and board games enthusiast told investigators that he “acted instinctively and without thinking” after waiting for Macron outside a school in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage.

In court, he expressed sympathy for the anti-government “yellow vest” movement and said that he and two friends had considered throwing an egg or a cream pie at the head of state during his visit to the Drome region, according to the BFM news channel.

“Macron represents the decline of our country,” he told the court.

Tarel, unemployed and living on benefits, said he had been annoyed by Macron’s decision to come to greet him – “an electoral tactic that I didn’t appreciate”, BFM reported.

In a video of the incident, a smiling Macron can be seen striding towards a crowd of onlookers including Tarel who are being kept behind a barrier.

Macron has shrugged off the assault, calling it an “isolated event”, and he has vowed to continue meeting voters despite concerns for his personal security.

Asked about it again during an interview on Thursday with BFM, he called it a “stupid, violent act” and suggested it was a consequence of the poisonous atmosphere found on social media.

“You get used to the hatred on social media that becomes normalised,” he said. “And then when you’re face-to-face with someone, you think it’s the same thing. That’s unacceptable.”

Leaders across the political spectrum have united in condemning the slap, with many seeing it as a symptom of the fraught political climate and declining standards of public debate just weeks from regional elections and 10 months from presidential polls.

Member comments

  1. “he had been annoyed by Macron’s decision to come to greet him”

    How dare a politician actually go and meet the people eh? So if Macron hadn’t done that, then someone else would have been annoyed at him ignoring everyone. You can never win really…

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POLICE

France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.

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