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France adopts Perben 11 law allowingplea bargaining, 96-hour detentions

PARIS, March 3 (AFP) – France’s constitutional council on Wednesday approved a controversial justice bill which for the first time writes into French law the notion of a guilty plea and greatly extends the powers of police in tackling organised crime.

However the council, which was ruling on a plea brought by the Socialist opposition, ordered two technical changes to clauses which it said breached the country’s 1958 constitution.

The Perben II law, named after Justice Minister Dominique Perben, will allow a suspect to plea bargain with the state prosecutor in the hopes of a reduced sentence.

The constitutional council struck out the clause which said the bargaining could take place without the presence of a judge.

The council approved the new police powers against organised crime – which include the rights to hold a suspect for up to four days and to place hidden recording devices in private homes.

However it said that where prosecutors wrongly used the new powers against a suspect who was not involved in organised crime, the defendant should have the case against him dropped.

The law was vehemently opposed by many lawyers and judges who said it gave too many new powers to police and is an assault on the presumption of innocence.


                               Subject: France news