Corruption and the justice system in France

Jacques Terray, member of TI’s board since November 2010, talks about the challenges of bringing corruption to justice in France.

What are the anti-corruption challenges in France?

France is a good pupil of the anti-corruption movement. The government leads international efforts, it was one of the first countries to ratify the OECD and UN conventions on bribery and corruption, , the government is publicly committed to fighting corruption and a special anti-corruption unit was set up in 2003.

However, the government does not seem too anxious to see that fight becoming a priority in terms of the number of people – qualified police and judicial officials – assigned to political and financial affairs. The numbers speak for themselves: only two significant convictions for bribery of foreign officials.

This looks likely to get worse, not better. A particular concern for NGOs like TI France was a project whose impact would be to restrict complaints about corruption.

How would the change work? How are corruption cases handled?

If citizens want to complain about corruption, they can go to the police/prosecutor or to  a judge with the powers to carry out an investigation.

When the prosecutor decides whether to proceed with an investigation, he/she follows the instructions of the government. By contrast, judges are independent.

All complaints go to the police/prosecutor first. The complainant is only able to take his/her case to a judge if the police/prosecutor had not acted after three months.

Prosecutors can thus take a case on before hand and say, “ we are going to investigate” but then put on the brakes, and the case may be dragging on indefinitely.

A bill was presented by the government to terminate the role of judges in the investigation phase, so that only prosecutors would have been able to receive complaints and to conduct investigations. The almost unanimous opposition of the judicial profession resulted in a withdrawal of that bill, at least for the time being.

How independent are corruption prosecutions today?

The key is specialised staff in Paris “pole financier”, a department which also handles issues like tax, customs, increasingly staffed with less experienced judges, prosecutors and experts.

A financial case with political implications, often requiring cross border inquiries, can take four to five years, and judges are evaluated on a basis of cases per year. An ambitious judge (or prosecutor) will not stay in this sector, where his efforts may not be rated fairly.

First and foremost, prosecutors should be more independent. A prosecutor may never be told to drop a case in writing (such an instruction has to be in writing), but a suggestive phone call is enough, when your career depends on the man at the end of the line.

Links between prosecutors and the government simply must be severed when it comes to the conduct of a specific case.

What could be done to improve the situation?

A chief prosecutor should be appointed by parliament, voting by a qualified majority so as not to be a political appointment. He would be in charge of supervising the work of prosecutors (to assure consistency of the prosecution policy nationwide), and making appointments and promotions.

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Jacques Terray

About Jacques Terray

Jacques Terray is a member of the board of Transparency International.

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One Response to Corruption and the justice system in France

  1. fido 29 July 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    On 05/07/2012 my self and my wife were at a stop light ,when a motorbick came up beside us and then a car.

    The car begain to beep there horn several times (even though the light was yellow), my wife made a gesture with her hand to tell them to shut up.

    They responded by an obcine gesture, and I responded the same gesture.

    The motorbike started and my wife waited alittle to make sure he wouldn’t pull out infront of us ( the motorbike not the car), then we started, the persons in the car drove around and start yelling insults and spitting at my wife, at this time the guy on the motorbike turned and the car ran my wife off the road.

    We got back on the road after almost hitting a van, when the two persons who were girls around 19-24 almost hit yet another person who was putting things into a parked truck.

    So we get to a red light and I got out and went to the drivers side and said “what the #%*& is your problem.”, the passanger responded with all kinds of insults that ended with American.

    The driver drove off and I slapped the back window and went back to my wifes car, as I was putting on my seat belt I saw the passanger at my wifes window so I got out.

    She started beating on the roof on the car yelling “what the &#*% is your problem %&*#!”, my wife got out and started yelling at her in french to get back in her car.

    The girl then tried to grabe my wifes hair, but my wife pushed her away and I grabed her and put my self in between them both, with my wife to my back.

    The girl yelled ” you &*%*#ed up my dad’s a cop!”, responded “I don’t care”, and then it was she spit in my face, as a result of her spitting in my face my wife tried to slap her but i turned and she slapped my ear, so all I could hear was a ringing noise.

    I saw some people waving there arms and it looked like they wanted me to bring the girl to them so still restraning her I picked her up and carried her to them in with they then attacked me, punching grabbing my arms and pulling my hair.

    I saw one person hit the girl so I turned around so she wouldn’t get hurt, then I felt a huge pain comeing from my scalp someone was hanging them selves from my hair (I have long hair by the way), and this forced me to go down on one knee letting the girl go.

    I could see my wife being held by a man and the girl went at her punching my wife, my wife got one arm free and pushed the girl away.

    I stood up trying to grab the girl even with the five people trying to stop me (yes they were still punching and pulling my hair).

    I grabed the girl around the waist and saw the driver was now pulling my har and the man agine had both my wifes arms so she could not deffend her self, the people pulled my arm free releasing the girl, my wife broke her other arm free pushing the driver of the car away when the girl started to hit my wifes face ( I later found out the girl was trying to scratch out my wifes eyes), the man grabed my wifes arm agine and the girl grabed my wifes hair.

    My wife got both arms free from the man and pushed her away, the man grabed her agine and my wifes tried to crorrect her shirt because of the struggle she was indecent whe the girl went for her eye agine and my wife faught back by scratching the girls face and the girl fell back in to me and I grabed her, it was the two firemen came and stopped the fight.

    Ten minutes after the police showed up yelling at my wife I asked her what did they say and she said” there asking if you and I want to go to jail”.

    The police too everyones statment and refused to take mine.

    Some weeks went by befor my wife and I could do a complaint because she couldn’t see out her left eye, and didn’t feel safe about driving.

    So we went ten days after the incident to the police station in Champigny when we spoke to the police officer Anna Zacharias at first she was refusing our complaint the officer left the room and I asked my wife what did the officer say she responded ” she says were just going to lie”,so Officer Zacharias took my wife’s statment and refused mine, she said it was because we are guilty, from what my wife told me and what I understood.

    My wife saw a doctor and everything ,then in November 12/2012 we were asked to come to the police office in Chennviéres sur Marne.

    They took down my wife’s statment and mine and we found out that this girl had done this several times.

    The officer said to my wife with my statment the case wont even go to court (because the girl was trying to take me and my wife to court because she was saying she was the victume).

    On 10/01/2013 we were asked to goto Chennviéres agint to get my wife’s Convocation en justice and found out they removed me and all evidence saying she could not have hit this girl because of her arm pluss they removed my wifes doctur visit from the case and are taking my wife to court in room 10 at TGI Creteil on 26/03/2013, the judge convicted my wife and now not only dose she have an injury that she can not recovor from but we have to pay 1000€ , now is there any way we could get help or addvice, because right now we feel abandoned by everything and everone we belived in.