Violence against the police, are “minimum sentences” possible?

The magistrates concentrated the criticisms of the police unions, during the rally organized Wednesday, May 19 in Paris, after the murder of Brigadier Eric Masson. Before the National Assembly, representatives succeeded to denounce the “Laxity” justice and called for the establishment of “Minimum sentences” against violence targeting the police.

The reform would take up the principle of penalties “Floors”, applied between 2007 and 2014 in the event of a repeat offense: prevent the judge from convicting below a minimum sentence set by the legislator. “The penalties incurred are little or not applied: the judge modulates according to his ideology, sometimes, or the number of places available in prison”, deplores Frédéric Lagache, general delegate of the Alliance union.

In the current state of the law and the Constitution, however, it is impossible to impose a minimum sentence on the judge without derogating from the principle of individualization of the sanction, which obliges him to take into account “Circumstances of the offense” and some “Author’s personality”. “The minimum sentences would therefore be possible only on condition that they can be modulated by the judge, having regard to the personality of the convicted person”, confirms Jean-Philippe Derosier, professor of public law at the University of Lille.

Under the regime of minimum penalties, the legislator had already had to provide the judge with the possibility of derogating from it. Result, according to a study by the Ministry of Justice, in 2010, they were applied in only 38% of eligible cases. “A fiasco”, for the current Keeper of the Seals, Éric Dupond-Moretti, ensuring that “During this period, in reality, delinquency did not decrease”. The executive therefore seems not very favorable to their return, and even less to the constitutional rewriting which would ensure its effectiveness.


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