French senators want to extend statute of limitation for child sex crimes

French senators want to extend statute of limitation for child sex crimes |

Senators from several political groups aim to extend the statute of limitations for sexual offences committed against minors, according to a bill seen by EURACTIV, though its chances of success are low.

The bill, which aims to “combat impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence against minors”, was tabled in the Senate in mid-May by around fifteen senators from the centrist, independent and centre-right groups, including Xavier Iacovelli, the first signatory.

“The concrete effects [of previous legislation] struggle to be seen in the statistics”, the bill, which has not yet been published but was seen by EURACTIV, reads.

The “extremely low” number of convictions for sexual violence against minors in France is due to the statute of limitations, the Senators also write.

In France, sexual crimes against minors are subject to a 30-year statute of limitations, which runs from the day the victim turns 18, meaning a case cannot be dismissed if an alleged sexual abuse victim files their complaint before turning 48.

The current mechanism, introduced in 2021 and known as the “sliding statute of limitations”, is complex and puts “undue pressure” on victims.

The group of senators is therefore proposing to lift the statute of limitations for the crimes of rape and sexual assault on minors. This would meet “our fellow citizens’ need for justice” and comply “with France’s international commitments to prevent sexual violence”, they added.

The senators also wish to extend the statute of limitations when it comes to not reporting sexual crimes against minors from 10 to 20 years after the victim reaches the age of majority. According to the senators, this is due to victims fearing to speak up about such acts and memories often taking a long time to re-emerge.

The proposed bill also aims to clarify a point on which the case law is not consistent and related to the victim’s vulnerability when facts are revealed by a third party, with senators wanting this to be assessed at the time of the offence, not when it is revealed. In other words, someone who knows the facts would have to reveal them even if the victim is no longer in a vulnerable situation at the time when the question of disclosure arises.

For the moment, this proposal is unlikely to be put on the parliamentary agenda as it would likely be questioned for whether it is in line with constitutional law and key tenets of criminal law such as the principle that criminal law only applies to acts committed after amendments are signed into law.

However, several other countries with legal systems comparable to France’s have adopted similar legislation, such as Switzerland and Denmark, and very recently Belgium.

(Davide Basso |

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