Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 6 News List

65 abusers jailed after French trial

PEDOPHILES French prosecutors described the case of child-abuse as an unimaginable breakdown of all known social, human and moral values

THE GUARDIAN , PARIS

Key figures in the largest child abuse trial ever held in France were sentenced to up to 28 years in jail on Wednesday after a jury convicted them of raping, molesting and prostituting children, including their own.

The court found that between January 1999 and February 2002, the 65 defendants had sexually abused 45 children, then aged from six months to 14 years, sometimes in exchange for cash, drink, cartons of cigarettes or, on one occasion, a car tire.

After a five-month trial, the jury sent three repeat offenders to prison for between 26 and 28 years. Other suspects were handed sentences ranging from six months suspended, to 18 years in jail.

The offenses took place in flats, sheds and allotments on a rundown housing estate in the Loire town of Angers, 300km from Paris, better known for its medieval chateau.

The abuse came to light five years ago when a 16-year-old girl told a social worker she had been raped by her mother's boyfriend and his brother.

The inquiry started slowly but snowballed into France's biggest criminal investigation.

More than half the defendants, 39 men and 26 women aged from 27 to 73 -- who cannot be fully identified under a French law designed to preserve the anonymity of child victims -- are unemployed.

The case has been described by lawyers and social workers involved as a barely imaginable example of the breakdown of all social, moral and human values in a closed and deprived community.

A 28-year prison term was given to Philippe V, 59, who had already served a 13-year term for child abuse and was described by prosecutors as an "indifferent monster" who had, over the years, raped his daughter, son and four grandchildren. He told the court that he "couldn't give a toss" about his offspring.

Eric J, an alleged ringleader, was convicted of raping 15 children and also given 28 years.

The majority of the abuse sessions took place in the apartment of Franck and Patricia V, Philippe V's son and former daughter-in-law, with whom he was living.

Franck V, 36, was sentenced to 18 years for the rape of 14 children, including his own two daughters and young son.

Patricia, 32, his now ex-wife, was found guilty of raping one of her daughters and of prostituting her other two children, and was given 16 years.

During his summing up, the chief prosecutor, Yvan Auriel, said that the couple were among "those people who must unfortunately be removed for a long period of time from our society in order that they become fully aware of the horror of their acts."

Investigators said the couple, aided by Franck V's father, persuaded their own children and those of friends, relatives and neighbours to submit to the abuse by saying they were going to "play doctors and nurses" or "the lock and key game," and offering them a "first prize" of a camping trip.

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