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66 accused (27 female), child abuse trial begins (The Scotsman)

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  • Robert Brown
    This article: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=225462005 print );document.write( );document.write( close );//-- Tue 1 Mar 2005 66 accused as
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      The Scotsman  
      Tue 1 Mar 2005
        
      66 accused as mammoth child abuse trial begins

      SUSAN BELL
      IN PARIS

      A HUGE paedophile trial opens in France today in which 66 adults - 27 of them women - will appear before a court in Angers charged with the rape and abuse of 45 children aged between six months and 12 years.

      At the centre of the scandal are 15 couples accused of prostituting their children in return for cigarettes, a few kilos of potatoes or a couple of days� camping. Some parents allegedly sold their children for modest sums of money which they spent in nightclubs.

      The alleged abuse took place between June 1999 and February 2002 in garden sheds on allotments and in council flats in the Angers suburb of Saint-L�onard.

      Of the 66 accused, 39 are being held in custody. They are accused of "aggravated pimping" and "rape of minors under 15" and face up to 30 years in jail if found guilty. The remaining 27 are charged with "sexual aggression" and "failure to denounce a crime" and risk jail sentences of up to ten years.

      Several unidentified "clients" of the paedophile ring are still being sought. Police have already identified eight. They are not, as rumour had suggested, important members of the community, but parents who disguised themselves so they would not be recognised by their own children.

      The victims, whose evidence was filmed and will be presented on giant screens, say they were forced to watch pornographic films and their parents having sex, before being raped.

      The defence will stress that all the accused come from deprived backgrounds, many were unemployed, the majority are illiterate and all were looked at by social services.

      Most were also known to the police. "We knew them like the backs of our hands. The men were regular visitors to the court for sex crimes," said a specialist in criminal law.

      Only one mother, among the parents of the 45 victims, will look after her child during the case; the other parents are in the dock or no longer have legal authority over their children.

      The scale of the accusations has shocked the country, still reeling from the fiasco of the trial of 17 alleged paedophiles in Outreau in northern France, last year. In that case, seven of the accused were eventually acquitted after a woman at the centre of the case admitted lying. All but one of the acquitted were jailed for up to three years before the case collapsed.

      Lawyers and prosecutors insist that the Angers case is solid and will not turn into another embarrassment like Outreau. However, questions are already being asked why social services were so slow to react.

      In fact, the horrific scale of alleged abuse came to light by accident. In 2001, Marine (not her real name), daughter of Patricia and a man known as Franck V, was placed in a children�s home by social services after brutal treatment by her father. There, she told social workers she had also been raped on several occasions. The case was reported to police but was classified as incest.

      Later that year, Clara (also, not her real name), 16, brought an action for rape against two brothers at Angers police station. Eric J, 35, her mother�s boyfriend, had already been sentenced to six years for a similar crime. His brother was also still in prison. Investigators made no connection between the cases, which were assigned to different detectives.

      It was only when one of the investigators retired that the first case was reassigned to the second detective, who noticed that when Eric J was released from prison in 1999, he went to stay with his friend, Franck V.





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