In his editorial of October 14, Paul Sugy, journalist at Le Figaro, reviews the results of the poll in which 9 out of 10 French people think that French justice should be tougher in the face of delinquents.
Without a doubt, although this feeling is much stronger on the right than on the left, which means that the debate is subjective. The question is not only whether justice should be more severe with regard to the principles on which it is based, but it is its very foundations that we are questioning here. There are at least two different visions of Justice, two political philosophies which clash on the subject of the responsibility incumbent on the judge: should he repress the fault at the height of its gravity, to repair the offense committed against the victim and even the community, as well as to deter citizens from breaking the law? Or does she have to help the wrongdoer get back on track?
In reality, these two visions are not in the least opposed. Objective justice, contrary to the individualisation of the sentence that France has been accelerating continuously since the creation of the sentence enforcement judge in 1958, is in no way an obstacle to the fight against recidivism. Under the guise of defending an “effective” justice, artificially opposed to an intransigent justice, the magistracy, whose majority political color has long been known, has in reality weakened the authority of the State, of which justice is one of the pillars. But the old humanist veneer with which this penal laxity was marked has cracked, and hardly convinces any more: your survey, Romain, is the demonstration of it.
But it’s nobody’s fault, of course. These days and in view of the public opinion on the subject, no one will take the risk of assuming their share of responsibility for the disaster head on. And those who think of making their own money on the backs of litigants are at their expense: disowned by the voters of the primary environmentalist, Eric Piolle may have paid for the grim record of the city of Grenoble in terms of public security. He had refused for years to strengthen video surveillance in his streets.
It’s the cops’ fault, say the victims; it is the judges’ fault, replies the constabulary; it is finally the fault of the public authorities, defend the magistrates. Indeed, they say, it is for want of being able to establish with certainty the facts being prosecuted that most of the culprits leave the courtroom without concern. Admittedly, but that does not excuse everything, and we should sometimes wonder what laziness in the investigation of certain cases may well be the name. Thus the trial of police attackers in Viry-Chatillon, emblematic of the genre, who saw their verdict lightened on appeal for lack of sufficient evidence. Still, only 5 perpetrators were convicted, while the images showed 19 assailants. If those who were cleared are really innocent, or are the 14 others? Both, my general! Because after all, the means or the ideas are more or less the same thing. I mean these command those.
But the means, it is true, justice is lacking and it even sorely lacking. It would take at least 100,000 additional prison places to “restore confidence in justice” last spring the lawyer Thibault de Montbrial. Emmanuel Macron’s promises on this subject have not been kept. To be in the average of European countries, France should increase its prison capacities by 50%! However, where the ideology is not far off, it is that the unusual increase in the budget of justice negotiated by the Keeper of the Seals is a sham: in reality, only a small part of this increase goes directly to the construction of new prisons. Dupond Moretti has also shown his bad faith on the subject by wrongly citing in the spring a study supposed to show that France is one of the countries which incarcerates the most in Europe.
The study only revealed one thing: France is one of the most critical countries in terms of prison overcrowding! And as long as the prisons are packed, not many people will want to fill them.