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French parliament backs law to set age of consent at 15

French lawmakers backed a bill late on Monday setting the minimum age of sexual consent at 15.

French parliament backs law to set age of consent at 15
The bill has been been by the French parliament. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Members of the Assemblée nationale, the lower house of parliament, voted unanimously to bring France’s consent laws in line with most other Western countries, following a wave of allegations of sexual abuse and incest described as France’s second #MeToo movement.

Under the bill, sex with children under 15 would be considered rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, unless there is a small age gap between the two partners – the so-called ‘Romeo and Juliet clause’.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said the vote sent a clear message: “Children are off-limits”.

Under current French law, prosecutors have to prove that a minor was forced, threatened or tricked into having sex with an adult in order to bring charges of rape or sexual assault.

The draft law was initiated by members of the Senate, who had suggested the age of consent be set at 13, which would have been one of the lowest in Europe.

But President Emmanuel Macron’s government pushed for it to be set higher.

The bill does allow for sex between a teen and a young adult up to five years older — a gap criticised by some MPs as too large but which Dupond-Moretti defended, saying he did not want “to put a youngster aged 18 on trial because he had consensual sex with a girl aged fourteen and a half.”

The bill, which was the subject of some 300 amendments in the Assemblée nationale, now returns to the Senate for a final vote.

The legislation also cracks down on online paedophilia, with any person caught trying to groom children aged under 15 for sexual acts over the internet facing up to 10 years in prison and a fine of €150,000.

The issue of consent has repeatedly come up for debate since 2018 when it emerged that a 28-year-old man, who had sex with an 11-year-old girl he met in a park, had initially been charged with a lesser sexual offence, not rape.

The country’s top appeals court is this week set to rule on another case involving allegations of child abuse.

The case was brought by a woman, named as “Julie” in press reports, who claims she was raped by over 20 firefighters when she was aged 13-15 and was repeatedly hospitalised for severe anxiety attacks.

The accused claimed she consented to sex, which she denies.

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CRIME

French tax agent ‘kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit’

A French tax inspector was kidnapped and killed, reportedly while carrying out a tax audit in a village in northern France on Monday evening.

French tax agent 'kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit'

The 43-year-old tax agent died on Monday night in northern France, with local media Actu Pas-de-Calais reporting that he was killed by the man whom he was auditing, who later died by suicide.

Emergency services were called to the small village of Bullecourt in the Pas-de-Calais département of northern France at around 8pm. Upon arriving they found two men dead and a woman, reported to be another employee of the tax office, tied up.

She was not believed to be seriously injured but was treated for shock. 

The public prosecutor released a statement saying that both tax agents “were carrying out an at-home audit to check the accounts” of the local man reported to be a brocanteur (antique dealer), who then “kidnapped them and tied them up.” 

“The accused then killed himself with a firearm,” according to the prosecutor’s office. 

The mayor of Bullecourt, a small village of 250 inhabitants, told AFP that he remembered the accused antique dealer as a “helpful” and “ordinary person” who had “integrated into the village.”

Gabriel Attal, the Public Accounts Minister, issued a statement on Monday evening expressing his condolences and saying that the tax agent “was simply doing his job” and that “today, he did not return.” The minister lamented that the agent was “killed while completing a tax audit.”

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