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The Age

French gang rape trial a 'shipwreck' for victims

Sat October 13, 2012 12:25am

TEN French men have been acquitted and four have received short sentences over the gang rape of teenage girls in a trial described by one of the victims' lawyers as a ''judicial shipwreck''.

In a case that has shocked France and cast a light on a culture of youth sexual violence, two women now in their 20s said that as teenagers they had endured months of almost daily rapes by scores of men in Fontenay-sous-Bois, outside Paris. The case is seen as the tip of the iceberg of the wider problem of gang rapes by youths on poor housing estates.

After a four-week trial, four of the accused were found guilty of taking part in gang rapes, but 10 were acquitted. Those found guilty were handed sentences that ranged from a suspended sentence of three years to one year in prison. Only one man returned to prison after the verdict because of time already served on remand.

The sentences were much lighter than those recommended by the state prosecutor. The court found one of the women, identified as Nina, was raped, but did not uphold rape allegations in the case of the second, identified as Stephanie.

A lawyer for the women, Clotilde Lepetit, described the sentencing as ''a judicial shipwreck'' for the women. She denounced what she called the extremely poor handling of the investigation and the judicial failings of the trial.

Another lawyer for the women, Laure Heinich, asked: ''What sentence makes sense when one hears that gang rapists are given a three-year suspended sentence?''

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