Crime Victims – France

3. Initiation of Legal Proceedings
5. After the Verdict

1. Before Reporting to the Police

A. Consult a Counsel!

If a sex worker becomes a victim of trafficking in women, the police may be interested in her statements as a victim or as a witness – for instance against the perpetrators of trafficking in women, against persons who have brought her into the country or to whom she has had to give part of her earnings.
Women who work as sex workers without the appropriate residence or work permits are committing an offence (for further information, see Prosecution). In this case the woman is – as far as the police is concerned – both a victim of a crime, and an accused person.
She should therefore always seek advice before going to the police. Confidential advice is offered by advisory centres for migrant prostitutes. Advisory Centres will not forward information regarding the woman, her name and address to the police or to aliens authorities. The advice will therefore always be confidential.

B. Confidential Legal Advice

Advisory Centres can arrange contact with specialist lawyers.
If the woman does not have sufficient means, she is entitled to have the state pay her lawyer’s fees. She also can ask at the professional association of lawyers (“ordre des avocats”) about the possibility of obtaining a counsel free of charge.

C. Confidential Medical Examination

In cases of violence against a woman, a medical examination can be very important in order to document injuries and traces of the deed. This means that evidence of the deed is recorded and the woman has time to think about whether or not she wishes to report the crime.
In France, there are special medical centres which offer confidential medical examinations free of charge (e.g. CDAG, Centre de dépistage anonyme et gratuite). In addition, there are associations which offer free consultations specially for crime victims.
Advisory Centres will provide information and the addresses of medical centres and associations.

D. Police and Justice Prejudices against Prostitutes

Within the police, special departments have been created for the investigation of sexual crimes. Trafficking in women is considered by the authorities to be a very serious crime. Therefore, the woman who is reporting such a crime to the police will generally be taken seriously and the case will be investigated adequately.

E. Trafficking in Women

1. Trafficking in Women is….

… when a woman is forced into prostitution, sexual exploitation or any other kind of exploitation

  • by violence or threat of violence
  • by an abuse of authority or another dominant position
  • by an debt obligation
The woman is forced into prostitution because she has to pay back travel costs to the person who brought her into the country

The name of the criminal offence codified in the French Penal Law is “sexual slavery”.

2. Special Rights for Trafficked Women

Victims of trafficking in women have access to special support services. The support is dependent on the woman being willing to cooperate with the police to prosecute the perpetrator(s) of trafficking and that criminal proceedings have been initiated against the perpetrator(s).
During the proceedings, the woman is entitled to support covering accommodation, maintenance and training. Advisory Centres give information about the support services existing.
Due to her victim status, the woman can obtain a residence permit. According to the law “every victim of sexual exploitation has to benefit from a care and protection system”. Theoretically the state has to provide victims of exploitation a secure place in shelters.
Up to now no real concrete protection or hosting system has been set up by the state.
For details of special services for victims of trafficking in women and their special rights, see the corresponding paragraphs below.

2. Making a Police Statement

If the authorities find out that a woman has become the victim of a crime she will be asked to make a statement in the police station. The crime victim is also a witness to the crime and can testify against the offending person – for example against perpetrators of trafficking in women, against persons who brought her into the country or against a person to whom she had to give her earnings.
Please note:
A woman who works without the appropriate residence and work permit is committing an offence. She is then an accused party and has different rights than when merely a witness (see Prosecution).
However, if the woman herself is victim of a crime, it is possible that she will not be prosecuted for an offence that she has committed (see below, Special Rights for Trafficked Women).

A. Right to Remain Silent

A victim of a crime is not obliged to testify when questioned by the police.

B. Female Officer

If the woman wishes to make a statement, she does not have an automatic right to be interrogated by a female officer. However, if she would prefer to be questioned by a woman, she should tell this to the police.

C. Translator

She is entitled to the services of a translator into her own language. If she should feel unable to trust the translator, she must give her reasons for this mistrust. If the reasons given are considered to be well-founded, she is entitled to refuse the interpreter and ask for another one.

D. Lawyer

She is entitled to answer only in the presence of her lawyer if she so wishes.
Hint: Memorise a lawyer’s telephone number!

E. Trusted Person

She is also entitled to demand the presence of another trusted person, e.g. a friend or an advisor.

F. No Custody

As a witness, the woman cannot be held in police custody. However, she may be held in custody or detained if she is also accused of illegal residence, illegal employment or any other crime (see Prosecution).

G. Special Rights for Trafficked Women

If the woman’s statement or other evidence leads to believe the police that she may be a victim of trafficking in women (see Definition above), she enjoys special rights.
1. Right to Residency

If a woman has been a victim of trafficking and does not hold a residence permit, she may obtain a residence permit as soon as court proceedings are initiated against the perpetrator(s).
However, the residence permit will not be granted before the beginning of the proceedings.

2. Advice and Support
a) Accommodation and Help

No programmes exist to provide help and accommodation for crime victims for the period after reporting a crime to the police until the beginning of legal proceedings.
Help is only given after the initiation of the proceedings (see below, Initiation of Legal Proceedings).

b) Legal Advice

The advisory centre will generally arrange the contact with a specialist lawyer who will inform the woman about her rights and help her to decide for or against giving evidence. If the woman does not have sufficient means, she is entitled for the state to pay the lawyer’s fees. She also can ask at the professional association of lawyers (“ordre des avocats”) about the possibility of obtaining a counsel free of charge.

c) Criminal Proceedings Against the Victim/Witness

If the woman has committed any offence herself, the offence will be prosecuted. In other words, she will have to undergo a criminal court proceeding.
However, if as a part of these proceedings the woman is able to prove that the offence committed by her is related to another crime of which she was a victim, she will not be punished.

3. Initiation of Legal Proceedings

After questioning the woman and other witnesses the police and the public prosecutor decide whether to initiate legal proceedings against the perpetrator(s). These proceedings have the goal of investigating the case and preparing the court proceedings. During the investigation, the woman may be questioned again by the police or by the public prosecutor. At the end of the criminal proceedings the public prosecutor decides whether to accuse the perpetrator before the criminal court.

A. Duration of Legal Proceedings

Often a long time passes between the woman’s first hearing at the police station and the beginning of legal proceedings and her statement as a witness before the court. Generally, this will take several months; in some cases a number of years may pass.

B. Trafficked Women

1. Right to Residency

If legal proceedings have been initiated, a residence permit will be granted to a woman who is a victim of trafficking and witness in the proceedings. The residence permit is granted from the beginning of the legal proceedings until the final sentence.
The permission is often only temporary, so that it has to be extended at the Préfecture.
The residence permit is granted only if the woman participates in a witness protection programme run by the police or by the public prosecutors .
In addition, in order to obtain a residence permit, the woman must have started the necessary steps of integration into French society (e.g. knowledge of the French language).

2. Living Conditions
a) Care Programmes at Advisory Centres

In some cities organisations exist to offer safe accommodation, professional socio-psychological care or any other support to crime victims. Information about local care programs are given by the police or by Advisory centres.

b) Medical and Psychological Care

The woman is entitled to financial support for medical and psychological care. She can freely choose the doctor she wants to consult.

c) Social Benefits

During the legal proceedings a woman who testifies as a witness is entitled to public welfare funds for accommodation and maintenance (food, clothing etc.).

d) Work

The woman is not allowed to work during the legal proceedings.
However, she can carry out training which will be financially supported by public welfare funds.

3. Decision to Appear as Witness or Joint Plaintiff
Before the commencement of court proceedings, the woman should decide – together with her lawyer – whether to give evidence as a witness only, or whether to appear as joint plaintiff.
a) Role as Witness

1. Limited to the Giving of Evidence as Witness
As witness, the woman is invited to her hearing as a witness only. She may neither participate in earlier appointments nor may she obtain information regarding the contents of the files. She is not informed about the course of the legal proceedings, nor is she able to influence these.

2. Lawyer
The witness may be accompanied to her hearing by a lawyer.
The lawyer ensures that the witness’s rights (e.g. exclusion of the public and the accused party, rejection of inadmissible questions; see Protection of the Witness) are observed.

3. Fees
If the woman appears merely as a witness, she is not entitled for the state to pay the lawyer´s fees.

b) Rights as Joint Plaintiff

As joint plaintiff, the woman has considerably more rights than if she is merely a witness.

1. Right to Inspection of Records
As joint plaintiff the woman’s lawyer is entitled to inspect the records.
Thus, the woman learns early on what character court proceedings will take, e.g. how many accused parties there are, whether further witnesses are to give evidence, whether the accused have confessed to the crime etc. This will help her to prepare for her own appearance as a witness.

2. Participation in All Appointments
The lawyer and – if she wishes it – the woman herself may participate in all court appointments. This is another opportunity for the woman to prepare for her statement as a witness.

3. Lawyer’s Rights of Procedure
The woman’s lawyer files her own petitions during the proceedings and is entitled to sum up the case before the court. In this way s/he ensures that the court and the public prosecution take into consideration the woman’s interests and rights.

4. Lawyer’s Fees
The lawyer´s fees may be paid by the state in total or in part if the woman does not have enough financial means to pay herself.
Even if the lawyer is paid by the state, the woman is allowed to choose her lawyer freely.

c) Requirements for Joint Plaintiff Status

The right to appear as a joint plaintiff exists if the woman’s testimony is particularly important for the investigation of the case and if she has a special interest in the conviction of the accused.

4. Court Proceedings

A. Duration of Court Proceedings

In general, penal court proceedings are very long and may take several years, from the beginning of the proceedings until the final sentencing.

B. A Witness Gives Evidence

The following explanations apply to the statement made by the woman, whether as a witness or as a joint plaintiff (Rights as a Joint Plaintiff).
1. Duration

The statement is given either in the course of one day or over several days. Occasionally the witness may also be asked to attend a second time later in the proceedings because new questions came up.

2. Questions

The woman will be questioned by the judges, the public prosecutor, the perpetrator’s lawyer and under certain circumstances also by her own lawyer.

3. Right to Remain Silent

If the woman is interrogated in the proceedings as a victim or witness, she is not obliged to testify. If she wishes she may refuse giving evidence.

4. Lawyer

When giving evidence, the woman may be accompanied by a lawyer. The lawyer makes sure that the witness’s rights are observed.

5. Translator

The witness is entitled to the services of a translator in her own language. If she feels unable to trust the translator, she can refuse her/him on grounds of interest. The court then decides whether to provide another translator.

C. Protection of the Witness

In court, the witness’ lawyer insists on the witness’ rights in order to protect her. For this reason, the witness and her lawyer should discuss beforehand what the individual possibilities for protection are, and which of these the witness requires.
1. Police Protection

In the court, the woman can be protected by the police during the whole proceedings.
In cases of serious threat against the woman, she may also receive protected on her way to the court or on her way home.

2. Giving Evidence Anonymously

Generally, a witness has to state his or her name and address when giving evidence. However, if the woman is at high risk due to her testimony, the court may decide that the information will not be divulged to the public and to the other participants in the proceedings.

3. Evidence Without the Presence of the Accused

During the victim’s statement, the accused party will be excluded if there is a risk that the victim may not tell the truth in his presence because of fear or for other reasons.

4. Waiver of giving evidence in court

If a written report of the woman’s statement exists, she can abstain from testifying personally before the court.

D. Compensation for the Victim

1. From the Perpetrator
a) During Criminal Proceedings

In criminal proceedings, the woman may make damages and compensation claims against the perpetrator during the proceedings. For the compensation claim, she may also be represented by a lawyer.

b) During Civil Proceedings

The woman may also make her claims before the civil courts as soon as the criminal proceedings are over.

2. From The State

Crime victims also can apply for compensation before a special commission (“Commision d´indemnisation des victimes d´infractions” – C.I.V.I)

E. Trafficked Women

Procedure concerning women’s right to residence, their living conditions and their rights during the court proceedings are the same as those detailed under Initiation of Legal Proceedings.

5. After the Verdict

A. Right to Residence

According to the law, a foreign sex worker who is part of a trial can be given a temporary residence permit which contains the right to work.

After the conclusion of the proceedings, the woman can obtain a residence permit for humanitarian reasons. One of the main conditions is that the person is not a threat to public order.

For further information please contact a counsel!

B. Support in Leaving the Country

If the woman wants to leave the country, she is entitled to public benefits for the travel costs.
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