A 29-year-old man has gone on trial in France accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl after a judge decided she was old enough to consent to sex.
The defence lawyer for the accused Sandrine Parise-Heideiger defended the decision, saying: “We are not dealing with a sexual predator on a poor little faultless goose.”
France does not have a legal age under which a minor cannot agree to a sexual relationship, although a previous ruling by France’s high court stated that children aged five and under are unable to consent.
In this latest case, the 29-year-old defendant’s lawyers have argued that the girl was consenting and aware of what was happening, while her lawyers have claimed she was too young to resist.
In a divisive decision, the prosecutor’s office in the town of Pontoise decided to put the man on trial for charges of ‘sexual abuse of a minor under 15’ and not for rape.
The man’s defence argues that the man and the girl met in a park and the girl voluntarily followed him to an apartment before consenting to sex. It is also claimed that the man believed she was at least 16.
Despite the girl’s family filing a rape complaint in the town of Montmagny, prosecutors did not feel that the crime constituted rape as the suspect did not use violence or coercion.
Now, the trial has been subsequently postponed after lawyer Carine Diebolt asked the court to change the charge to rape.
‘It’s a victory,’ Diebolt told press outside court.
‘The main thing is that [the girl] can at last be heard as a victim of rape … we can say it’s a victory for the victims.’
At present, the government of President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a bill to introduce a minimum legal age for sexual consent.
It would reportedly include a provision stating that intercourse with children under a certain age is coercive.
The proposed minimum age is yet to be decided, but it could be between 13 and 15.