Mendy peut-il être condamné à vie pour viols par la justice anglaise ?

Mendy peut-il être condamné à vie pour viols par la justice anglaise ?

What fate does British justice reserve for Benjamin Mendy? The trial of the French international opens this Wednesday in Chester, Great Britain. The Manchester City defender will have to answer for the facts of eight rapes, an attempted rape and a sexual assault in England before the judges. Accusations that he has always denied. To follow this trial and predict the outcome, we French will have to forget our knowledge of criminal law (if you had it), because on the other side of the Channel we do not dispense justice as in France.

Starting with how the law describes rape. In France, according to the Penal Code, rape is classified as “any act of sexual penetration, whatever its nature, or any oral-genital act” committed on a person through “violence, coercion, threat or surprise”. In the UK, the law says rape exists when an individual (A) “intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of an individual (B) with his penis without B consenting to such penetration, and A does not reasonably believe that B consents.” The text specifies that “measures taken by A to verify whether B consented” will be taken into account.” Therefore, the notion of consent could occupy a central place in the defense arguments.

The presumption of innocence above all

The second major difference lies in the application of the principle of presumption of innocence. “English justice is much more rigorous in its respect than French justice”, he confides to 20 minutes Georges Parastatis, lawyer of the Paris Bar Association. And for those whose field of intervention is international criminal law, if this presumption is also well guaranteed, it is because of the notable differences between the two countries in procedures, but also in customs.

“In France, the criminal investigation is first conducted by an investigating judge who records everything in writing. The oral criminal trial then tries to confirm or not this written investigation in advance. While in England everything is oral: the investigative work, the hearing of witnesses, that of the accused and even the trial…”, explains the criminal lawyer. During the trials, it is the police themselves who come to transcribe the hearing report and the different parties who tell their versions. Difficult to imagine in our country the reputed king of paperwork. Direct consequence: “French judges find it hard to get rid of what could have been said in the past, even years ago,” observes Georges Parastatis.

“The plaintiffs are not at the center of the trial”

Another element that contributes to the application of the presumption of innocence is the treatment of the alleged victims. “There is no civil party in the criminal trial,” explains lawyer Jessica Finelle, an expert in national and international criminal law. The plaintiffs are heard as witnesses and therefore are not represented by counsel. Only the prosecution faces the defense as a party. It must be understood that “the plaintiffs are not at the center of the trial, while in France, and even more so from MeToo, they have a prominent place in the audience,” adds Aloïs Blin, a lawyer at the Paris Bar Association.

In France, when people file a complaint for similar acts against the same individual, “the prosecution turns it into an argument of guilt by saying that if there are several, it is not a coincidence,” Georges Parastatis believes. In the United Kingdom, strict respect for the presumption of innocence means that this is not an argument and “the magistrate will not direct the debates in that direction.” Finally, “the jury does not have access to the defendant’s criminal record when asked to rule on guilt,” says Jessica Finelle. So many elements, which according to the lawyer allow British justice to be “very respectful of the rights of the defense and the presumption of innocence.”

The height of the sentence, a separate matter

In addition to the course of the trial, the sentence Benjamin Mendy incurs could also be very different from the one he risks in France. In the first place because the penalties for rape “range from 4 years to life imprisonment, depending on the circumstances,” says Jessica Finelle. If this maximum penalty is rarely applied, Georges Parastatis points out that in Great Britain the penalties are cumulative. With eight charges for rape, the player could end his life in prison, “while in France the maximum penalty for rape is 20 years regardless of the number of victims,” ​​specifies the lawyer.

In terms of sentence height, the English system is much more structured and divided. A first jury statement on the defendant’s guilt. “If he admits his guilt for all or part of the charges, there is a second procedural step, this time made up of professional judges who establish the sentence based on guidelines according to the circumstances and the conduct of the author,” he explains. . Alois Blin. In France, the sentence remains random, especially when it is decided by non-professional juries”.

And if the victims want to claim compensation, “they will have to arrest the civil judge”, in the framework of a separate hearing, adds Jessica Zimeray. In France, the guilt, the sentence and the compensation awarded to the victim are pronounced at the same time.

Star or not star, the same

In England, where the tabloids loom large and feast on this sort of thing, one would think that Benjamin Mendy’s celebrity would not be an asset. But for Georges Parastatis this should not work for him or against him. “There, a homeless person would be judged in the same way as him.” Aloïs Blin points out, however, that if the fact of being known should not in theory play with conviction, in one country as in another, “it is certainly not an advantage”.

However, a full stop could weaken Benjamin Mendy’s defense should the trial turn to his guilt. Judged in France, we would have sought, through the blows of experts and analysis, to understand why the accused acted as he did and justice would have punished him more or less severely depending on the case. “In the United Kingdom we are simply innocent or guilty, and in the second case we seek much less to analyze the psychological ins and outs of an act”, concludes Georges Parastatis.

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