Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Outreau affair

This morning's lecture focused on miscarriage of justice and qualified privilege. The first part of the lecture reminded me of a very serious case that happened a few years ago in France.

On the 25th February 2000, Thierry and Myriam Delay's children were put into a foster home after Myriam Delay denounced her husband to the police for abusing their kids. The children accused their parents' neighbours, friends' parents, people in the neighbourhood for organising "pedophile orgies". They raped the children, filmed them and then sold the movies. At least 15 kids would have been abused. Thierry Delay would have "rented" his kids to pay his debts. In 2001, the investigation started, while all the suspects were held in jail until they were tried.

The trial, which started in May 2004, was presided over the judge Burgaud. On the 10th May, Thierry Delay confessed he raped his children but exonerated all the other suspects apart from his wife. Myriam Delay also exonerated 13 of the 17 defendants. The theory of the pedophile network fell apart.* It appeared that only Thierry and Myriam Delay's four kids were abused. On the 2nd July, seven suspects were acquitted. Thierry Delay was convicted to a 20 year jail sentence, whereas his wife was given a 15 year jail sentence. The seven people who were acquitted demanded the State to admit their huge mistake. Each of them received 100 000 euros. Six defendants out of ten appealed against the conviction. They were all acquitted on the 1st of December 2005.*

I think this case is considered as one of the the worst miscarriages of justice in France, Jacques Chirac himself called the affair "a judicial disaster". One of the defendants committed suicide awaiting for the trial. Even if the defendants have been acquitted, most of them have been held in jail for several years. They've been defamed, the moral prejudices have been terrible. At the very beginning, 70 people were accused, seventeen were tried, and only four people were finally convicted to a jail sentence.

The judge Burgaud (above), who is held partly responsible for this miscarriage of justice, has been recently tried by his fellows. He received a blame (warning) for negligence and lack of impartiality during the trial. This sentence is considered as very weak by the ex defendants.

* I have simplified the story because this case is much more complicated. If you want more information about it, please visit these websites:


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