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French court jails Aussie ‘guru’ for teen girls’ rape

An Australian Hare Krishna follower dubbed the “guru of Valbonne” was jailed for 15 years this week for raping two 15-year-old girls in the south of France. In a separate case in France, a cult leader, was jailed for five years for forcing family members to have sex with each other.

French court jails Aussie 'guru' for teen girls' rape
An Australian Hare Krishna dubbed the “guru of Valbonne” was this week sentenced to 15 years in prison for raping two 15-year-old girls in the south of France. Photo: Indi Samarajiva

A court in the southern French city of Nice sentenced a 41-year-old Australian man to 15 years in prison this week, after finding him guilty of raping two 15-year-old female “followers”, according to local newspaper Nice Matin.

Sean O’ Neil, was labelled a “sexual predator” by prosecutor Muriel Fusina during sentencing on Wednesday.

O'Neill himself had claimed he had been reluctantly servicing the “unbridled sexual appetites” of the teenage girls.

Prosecuting lawyer Katia Calvini rejected those claims out of hand on Wednesday, telling the court: “He is a narcissistic pervert, he’s just trying to shift the responsibility for what actually happened.”

Fusina agreed, telling the Australian expat: “You are a sexual predator, who used the concepts of Hare Krishna for your own perverted ends."

"In your clutches, two teenage girls lost their virginity. Under your influence, they prayed for two hours every day, undertook a vegan diet, and broke off ties with their friends," she continued.

O’ Neil had told the court earlier in the day that he had only come to France in the first place at the “urgent request” of ‘Marie’ – one of his teenage victims, whom he had met online.

To the shock and visible upset of his victims, present in the court on Wednesday, O’ Neil even went so far as to blame them for the apparent physical abuse he subjected them to.

“She asked me to to hit her, so I did, until my hands hurt,” a weeping O’ Neil told the court in Nice, adding that he had had no choice but to engage in group sex with the girls.

O’ Neil was acquitted of the rape of a third teenage girl, but the court ordered that he be deported from France for life at the conclusion of his prison sentence.

'You forced a mother to have sex with her own children'

Elsewhere this week, a 57-year-old former English teacher and erstwhile cult leader was sentenced to five years in prison for “abuse of weakness,” for forcing followers and even members of the same family to have sex with each other.

The sentence was passed in the context of France’s strict 2001 law against cults.

The court in Caen, north-western France on Wednesday found that Françoise Dercle from the ‘Parc d’Accueil’ sect had forced her followers to have sex with each other, often in groups, between 2002 and 2007.

Dercle frequently even forced family members to engage in incestuous sex acts with each other, the court found.

Judge Henri Ody on Wednesday confronted Dercle with a particularly disturbing incident. “You forced a mother to have sexual relations with her [adult] children, one of whom was severely handicapped,” Ody told Dercle.

She had originally been given a four-year jail term in January, but her sentence was increased by 12 months on Wednesday.

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VISAS

Reader question: How does getting a French visa affect the 90-day rule?

If you're not an EU citizen and you're coming to France, you need to either get a visa or abide by the 90-day rule - but can you combine the two?

Reader question: How does getting a French visa affect the 90-day rule?

Question: I have a property in France and I’m looking at getting a six-month visitor visa so we can spend more time there since Brexit, but how does this work with the 90-day rule? Do we still use that rule for the rest of the year?

If you’re not a citizen of an EU country and you want to spend more than 90 days at a time in France, you will need a visa. This has always been the case for non-EU nationals such as Americans and Australians, but since Brexit it also applies to Brits.

Many British second-home owners who were previously accustomed to splitting their time equally been France and the UK now have to either limit their stay or get a visa.

We’ve got a complete guide to how the 90-day rule works HERE

And a step-by-step guide to getting a visa HERE

There are many different types of visa, but the one that many second-home owners have opted for is the 6-month visitor visa. This allows you to keep your main residency in your home country without having to worry about things like tax status, but enjoy lengthy visits to your French property.

But if you have a six-month visa, then what are the rules for the other six months of the year?

Essentially, having a visa suspends the 90-day rule when you are coming to France – so within the period of validity of your visa you can spend as much time in France as you like and you don’t need to worry about counting the days.

However it’s important to note that this is only the case for France – the 90-day rule covers the whole of the EU and Schengen zone, so if you make any trips to – for example – Germany or Spain during the period when your French visa is activated, those days still count towards your 90 day limit.

Once your visa has expired, you revert to the 90-day rule when it comes to trips to France, meaning that you can be here for 90 days out of every 180 but at the end of that period you must leave the Schengen zone.

This operates on a rolling calendar, so you always count back 180 days from the present date to see how many days you have spent in the EU in that period, and therefore how many you have left – if you’re confused, the online Schengen calculator HERE allows you to input your dates and work out your total. 

If you intend to roll your visa period directly into your 90 days you will need to leave the Schengen zone at least for one day, otherwise it will appear that you have overstayed your visa – you need to exit the EU, and then re-enter without a visa to allow your days to be correctly calculated.

Tax

And a quick note on tax. The 90-day rule and visa rules refer to your immigration status, but if you intend to spend up to nine months of the year in France, you need to also check your tax status both in France and in your home country to avoid breaching the rules on tax residency.

Immigration checks

Over the years France has earned itself a reputation as being one of the less strict countries in Europe when it comes to policing stays from visitors. However, Brexit appears to have changed this with many people reporting stricter border checks and some people being fined or having their passports stamped for over-staying their 90 days.

It’s likely that you won’t be checked every time you enter and leave, but if you are caught overstaying a visa or a 90-day limit, the penalties can be more severe than a simple fine. If your passport is stamped as an over-stayer it is likely to make future travel (anywhere in the EU, not just in France) more difficult, and you may also be rejected for future visas.

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