N France paedophilia trial exposes judicial flaws

24th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

SAINT-OMER, France, May 22 (AFP) - France's justice system has been rattled and its public shocked by one of the worst paedophilia cases the country has known, in which 17 adults are charged with gang-raping children but four have admitted lying and falsely accusing the 13 others.

SAINT-OMER, France, May 22 (AFP) - France's justice system has been rattled and its public shocked by one of the worst paedophilia cases the country has known, in which 17 adults are charged with gang-raping children but four have admitted lying and falsely accusing the 13 others.

Myriam Delay, the woman at the centre of what was thought to be a massive child prostitution ring based at her home in Outreau outside the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, cracked Tuesday, recanting her version of events.

"I'm sick, I'm a liar, I lied about everything! Why? Because I went along with the children," she told the court in Saint-Omer, provoking sobs from the shell-shocked defendants' bench.

For four years, the case has been building against Delay and her husband Thierry. Along with 15 others they went on trial two weeks ago for the gang rape over a five-year period of 18 children - aged three to 12 at the time.

Now the families of the falsely accused are furious that only one defendant has been released from jail, and have questioned how the men and women will rebuild their lives smeared by scandal and shattered by imprisonment.

Some of the defendants, aged 24 to 67, were charged in addition to paedophilia with committing torture and barbaric acts during the alleged sex sessions that took place in the Delay apartment in a rundown housing block in Outreau.

One of the accused committed suicide in prison before the case came to trial.

Delay and her husband have admitted to raping their own four children, but claimed their children and other area youths had been passed around for sex among other members of the community, including a bailiff and a priest.

The minors, once they had been placed in foster care, told investigators they had been fondled, raped, coerced into performing sex acts and forced to watch pornographic films, and named other individuals involved.

But their testimony was riddled with inconsistencies from the outset.

Moreover, most of the defendants vehemently and repeatedly denied any involvement, but prosecutors pressed ahead with the case.

Aurelie Grenon, the Delays' neighbor, also retracted her accusations against the 13 defendants, saying: "Well, when I accused those people, it was because I heard Myriam name them, and I know that's not right. She asked me to."

Grenon and her former boyfriend David Delplanque had admitted to raping the Delay children over a four-month period in 1998.

On Wednesday, in another dramatic reversal, however, Grenon tried to back out of former confessions, saying she and Delplanque were innocent."I never touched a child. I would not be capable of doing it."

Delplanque contradicted that testimony, saying she had indeed participated in the group rapes of the Delay children.

Following the bombshell in the courtroom this week, the accused and their families have questioned when they will be freed and how the justice system could have failed them so utterly.

Only Sandrine Lavier, 27, was freed on Wednesday after the dramatic confessions. Family for seven others interrupted the hearing, screaming
"Scandal!" "Justice for the rich!" "Shame!" and "Rotten!" inside the courthouse.

Following the ruckus, head judge Jean-Claude Monnier adjourned the trial until Monday.

"This is the unfortunate confirmation of a diabolical legal blunder," Hubert Delarue, lawyer for Alain Marecaux, said Wednesday.

"This case proves that the legal system is on its last legs, as we have now seen the total negation of any presumption of innocence," he added.

Myriam Delay confirmed her statements on Wednesday, meaning that 13 of the 17 defendants are likely to be acquitted when a verdict is handed down in early June.

But legal experts said they were being held while the court waits for further proof of their probable innocence.

Lawyers for the defense have also condemned what they called the presumption of guilt of judges, who took the statements of the Delay children at face value and believed in the theory of a large paedophilia network.

If found innocent, the 13 defendants could then file for compensation.

French Justice Minister Dominique Perben on Wednesday made a rare comment about an ongoing trial, saying: "If, once the trial is finished, it seems that there have been serious errors, of course they will have to be reviewed and, as much as possible, we'll have to see to it that wrongs are put right."

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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