July 25, 2021

“Society is not asking for a law that punishes more, but a judge who hears its concerns”

DOn the name of a victim to a criminal law, the phenomenon is not new. It is still necessary to remind those who demand a “Sarah Halimi law” and denounce, like Bernard-Henri Lévy, “The inhumanity of judges” having declared his murderer criminally irresponsible.

It all started in the 1980s when the United States was confronted with scandals of murder and rape of children. Following the assassination of a young girl, Megan Kanka, in New Jersey in 1994, several states passed Megan’s Laws to establish sex offender files that can be viewed on the Internet. The federal authorities have generalized this law in all states, which bears the victim’s signature.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Criminal irresponsibility: Emmanuel Macron’s desire to change the law is debated

The magnitude of this type of event was at the origin of one of the most repressive American laws in its history: « Three strikes and you’re out » (Three faults are worth life imprisonment), valid for simple offenses as for crimes. This was the starting point for moral panics of which the figure of the victim is the main spring.

Since this type of bidding is predominantly in the pre-election periods, only a “good” number of convictions gave prosecutors a chance of being elected. This is how emotional identification with the victim became the locus of the law. And that penal populism was born, that is to say a discourse which calls on the legislator to punish on behalf of the victims against institutions incapable of hearing them.

Punitive fervor

This climate which denounces haphazardly an impotent State and lax justice appeared in France in the 2000s. Following crimes committed by those leaving prison, the law of February 25, 2008 provided for the application of detention to these aggressors. safety after their sentence given their persistent dangerousness. At the same time, after having murdered a nurse and a nursing assistant at the Pau hospital, a young schizophrenic, Romain Dupuy, was also judged irresponsible in a climate of incomprehension similar to what we see today. hui after the murder of Sarah Halimi.

How can relatives accept the dismissal “As if the crime had not taken place?” “, exclaimed Nicolas Sarkozy who wanted to be the president of the victims. A hearing before the investigating chamber of the court of appeal had been set up to give them satisfaction. Thus it was hoped that a moral indignation born of a feeling of victimhood would be appeased.

You have 65.15% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.