Although a person sentenced to life imprisonment always has the opportunity to apply for parole before the end of the sentence, it is not systematically granted, and some of them are detained for decades.
What is a life sentence?
This is the most severe punishment in the criminal code since the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981. More than ten life sentences are handed down by juries every year: 15 in 2020 (out of almost a thousand criminal convictions), 14 in 2019, 21 in 2018, according to the office. As of October 1, 2021, 477 prisoners were serving life sentences in France.
One of them is a young man convicted of the rape and murder of Agnès Marin in Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haut-Loire) in 2011, when he was 17 years old. As of 2016, it is no longer possible to impose a life sentence on a juvenile.
“Come out in 20 years”
In public opinion and among some presidential candidates, one can often hear that a person sentenced to life imprisonment “out in ten” Where “twenty years“. Life imprisonment is always accompanied by a period of security, during which the convicted person can not take advantage of either release or leave. This period is a minimum of eighteen years. The seat of the court can extend it up to thirty years. .
In February, Nordal Lelandice was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of little Maelis accompanied by security period twenty-two years, the maximum penalty for the crime for which he was tried. He did not appeal, so his sentence is final. During these twenty-two years, including the time spent in pre-trial detention, he will not be able to request a change of sentence.
Automatic logout at the end of the security period?
The lifetime term is not automatically released at the end of the security period. After the expiration of the term, he can apply for parole, and it can be granted to him by the Court for the Execution of Sentences (COI) if he meets several conditions, in particular, his absence of danger.
Fake Doctor Jean-Claude Romansentenced to life imprisonment in 1996 for the murder of his wife, two children and parents, took advantage Conditional release in 2019, after twenty-six years in prison. Patrick Henry, detained for forty years for the murder of a child, received suspension of execution in September 2017, due to life-threatening cancer. He died three months after being released from prison.
“Incompressible” eternity, “real” eternity?
“Real eternity” exists in France. It was created in 1994 at the instigation of Justice Minister Pierre Meenieri, who was marked by the rape and murder of a young girl by a man already convicted of sex crimes. A convicted person may, after thirty years in prison, ask for a review of his unbending life sentence. The Execution Judge then brings in a panel of three medical experts who evaluate his state of danger. In their opinion, the five judges of the Court of Cassation determine whether the irremovability of the sentence should be ended.
This “true eternity” remains extremely rare. It was said only four times: against Pierre Bodin, known as “Mad Pierrot” in 2007, Michel Fourniret – since he died in prison – in 2008, Nicolas Blondio in 2013 and Yannick Luende Botelo in 2016, each for killing children with rape or torture.
Originally reserved for these crimes only, life imprisonment was extended to murders of public office holders and, from June 2016, to terrorist offences. But this law has no retroactive effect and cannot be applied to acts committed before this date. Pierre Bodin could theoretically request a review of his position in 2034. Then he will be 87 years old.
He appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which in 2014 approved life sentences handed down in France because they gave the prisoner a hope, however small, of release.
“No one” spends his life in prison?
The five longest-serving prisoners in France are all sentenced to life imprisonment, aged between 69 and 81. So far, they have served from forty-three to forty-nine years in prison. Marcel Barbeau, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1983 for eight murders of women in the Oise, has been in custody since 1976.
Another dean of French prisoners, 87-year-old Tommy Recco, who was sentenced in 1983 to life in prison for two triple murders, was recently denied a new request for a medical stay.