French police apologise to woman who tackled Macron on rape claims

An 18-year-old high school student questioned President Macron as to why he had supported the appointment of government ministers accused of rape. The next day, the police turned up at her school.

French police have apologised to a teenager they questioned after she tackled Macron on rape claims.
French police have apologised to a teenager they questioned after she tackled Macron on rape claims. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

French police have apologised to a woman after allegedly seeking to “intimidate” her after she challenged President Emmanuel Macron on rape allegations made against ministers.

The woman, called Laura, had shouted at Macron during a visit to the southern Tarn region Thursday, asking why he had “put men at the head of state who are accused of rape and violence against women”.

There have been separate rape accusations made against Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and the new Solidarity Minister Damien Abad, which both have denied.

In response, Macron said the men should be presumed to be innocent, as neither had been convicted.

Police officers subsequently visited the woman at her secondary school on Friday, interrupting a class she was attending to interview her, she told Le Parisien daily.

She could not be reached by AFP for comment.

She was reportedly asked if she wanted to file a complaint over comments she made during her exchange with the president.

But the woman, who characterised the visit as “intimidating,” said the conversation quickly turned to her comments the day before, with an officer telling her it “was not done”.

In a statement on social media Friday, police said their visit “was simply aimed at contacting this person, who presented herself as a victim, to suggest they make a formal complaint, or failing that to offer them help.

“We would like to apologise to her if our move to meet her at the high school to discuss this was misperceived and she considers that we were clumsy,” the statement added.

Images of the woman’s exchange with the president have been shared thousands of times on social media.

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Reader question: Do French police have the right to see my ID?

French police have some quite surprisingly wide-ranging powers that apply to everyone in France, whether resident or visitor.

Reader question: Do French police have the right to see my ID?

The Local subscribers in France are no doubt, responsible and law-abiding people – but, even so, it is very possible that they will find themselves in situations that involve contact with the police.

One reason for police to stop an ordinary civilian is for a contrôle d’identité (identity check). This is when a police officer stops to check your identity. 

This can only happen under certain conditions: 

  • the officer suspects you have committed or will commit a crime; 
  • you are in a ‘dangerous’ location where crime is known to occur; 
  • the public prosecutor has ordered a particular area to be watched; 
  • or you are operating a motorised vehicle (a contrôle routière).

If you’re driving, officers have the power to pull you over for an identity check – even if you were driving safely and within the speed limit – and a search of the vehicle and/or luggage may be carried out.

If you refuse to provide proof of identity, the police can find you guilty of refusing to obey or find you guilty of contempt and rebellion. Really.

READ ALSO ‘Don’t mess with French cops’ – Top tips for dealing with police in France

If you are not carrying any document that could prove your identity, the officer can take you to a police station to check your identity there. If this happens, the verification process must not last longer than four hours from the first request for ID – in Mayotte, this period is eight hours.

If you maintain your refusal to be identified, or if there is no other means of establishing your identity, the public prosecutor or the investigating judge may authorise the taking of fingerprints and photos.

Refusing to submit to fingerprinting or having a photograph taken is punishable by a fine of up to €3,750 and three months in prison.

Activists and NGOs argue that police practice racial profiling when they perform ID checks and it’s true that these ‘random’ checks seem to happen more frequently to people of colour.  

READ ALSO What to do if you are arrested in France

Non-French citizens who are resident in France may also have to prove their right to residency – a passport or residence permit is acceptable as, importantly, is the confirmation of anyone with you who is either a French citizen or legally resident in France.

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

In France, it is strongly recommended that you carry some form of ID at all times, just in case you are stopped by officials. In fact, no text obliges you to have an identity card but if you are subject to an identity check, the procedure will take longer if you cannot present an appropriate document.

French citizens have ID cards, but if you’re not French then a passport or residency card such as a carte de séjour are the most usual ways to prove ID. 

Equally, you may be required to prove your identity for any number of administrative reasons – which makes it easier to have some form of ID with you.

These include, for example, the following situations:

  • Examination or competition;
  • Registration at Pôle Emploi;
  • Registering on electoral rolls and voting in elections;
  • Certain banking operations (payment by cheque, withdrawal at the counter of your bank);
  • Picking up a parcel from the post office
  • A trip abroad