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Parents and child drown after freak wave hits French coast

Two parents and their child died in western France after a powerful wave swept them out to sea as they were fishing on a dyke in Brittany, authorities said on Friday.

Parents and child drown after freak wave hits French coast
The family were fishing in the Plogoff area of Brittany, northern France. Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP

The 55-year-old father and 33-year-old mother were pulled out of the water early Thursday evening in the western town of Plogoff in cardiac arrest but rescuers were unable to resuscitate them.

The body of the 12-year-old child was found later in the evening.

Three other children of the family, aged 13 to 15, were not on the dyke and survived the surprise wave but were in shock and being treated by psychological services.

There were strong waves at the time but the weather conditions were not stormy, a spokesperson for maritime officials said.

Witnesses immediately called rescuers who dispatched paramedics and three helicopters to search for the victims, who lived in the nearby town of Audierne.

“There are circumstances that make the coast dangerous around here. I’m warning people, you have to be extremely careful,” Plogoff Mayor Joel Yvenou told the local Telegramme newspaper.

“It’s terrible, the season hasn’t begun yet and there are already victims,” he added.

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POLICE

EXPLAINED: What are your legal rights as a foreigner in France?

The French Constitution offers broad legal protection to anyone in France from the right to trial to the right to legal advice, but there are some scenarios specific to foreigners in France.

EXPLAINED: What are your legal rights as a foreigner in France?

What are my rights if I am arrested or imprisoned?

If you are arrested you have the same rights as a French citizen to legal advice, phone calls, bail and a full trial – full details HERE.

There are some extra things to be aware of however;

Once arrested you have the right to an interpreter during police interviews.

You have the right to call your Embassy, although the help the Embassy can offer you is much more limited than many people think.

If you are released while awaiting a court hearing you will usually have to hand over your passport and undertake not to leave the country. If you are not a French resident, the judge can assign you a residency address in France.

If you are found guilty and imprisoned in France you maintain several rights, such as the right to vote (if you have French citizenship). France’s interior ministry has a handout detailing these rights, HERE

Can I appeal against my sentence?

Yes, you have the right to appeal a court’s decision.

Keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process with very specific deadlines – and it can go either way, so you risk a sentence being increased.

If you are acquitted in court,  French law also allows for the prosecution to appeal against your acquittal.

I am the victim of a crime, what are my rights?

In France, the role of the state and the prosecutor is to protect the peace, this means that if someone commits a crime against you, it is up to the state to decide whether to move forward with criminal proceedings.

It’s not up to the victim to decide whether or not to press charges.

Conversely, if the state chooses not to go ahead with criminal proceedings, but you (the victim) want them to press charges, you have the right to appeal against their decision to drop the case.

Can I be expelled from France for committing a crime?

Yes, although this is generally reserved for people who have committed serious crimes such as violent crime, drug-trafficking or terror offences.

If you have been jailed for a serious crime in France you can be served with an ‘interdiction du territoire français‘ – a ban from French soil – on your release. These are reserved for the most serious offences and simply being incarcerated does not necessarily lead to expulsion.

If you are a full-time resident in France but not a French citizen, then being convicted of a crime can mean that your visa or residency card will not be renewed. This is again usually reserved for people who have committed very serious crimes, but in certain circumstances residency can be withdrawn for less serious offences such as driving offences or begging. 

READ ALSO What offences can lose you the right to live in France?

If you have French citizenship it’s virtually impossible for your to be expelled from France although in some rare cases – usually connected to terrorism – citizenship of dual nationals can be revoked.

What are the rules for minors?

Minors in the French legal system have some specific rights. The EU has laid out the specific rights of minors, which apply in France as well, and apply from the time of arrest.

  • Right to be be quickly informed of legal rights, and to be assisted by your parents (or other appropriate persons)
  • Right to be assisted by a lawyer
  • No prison sentence should be imposed on a minor if they have not been assisted by a lawyer during the court hearings. All measures should be exhausted to avoid a child being imprisoned.
  • Right to be detained separately from adults if sent to prison.
  • Children should not be required “to reimburse the costs of certain procedural measures, for example, for individual assessment, medical examination, or audio-visual recording of interviews.”
  • A child’s privacy should be respected and “questioning will be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner.”
  • Repeatedly questioning children should be avoided.
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