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Police stage rare protest in Paris against ‘lax’ judiciary

Jacques Demarthon, AFP | French police protest outside Justice Ministry in Paris on October 14, 2015

At least 7,500 police officers demonstrated outside France’s justice ministry Wednesday protesting a lack of resources and what they say is insufficient support from the judiciary in their daily law enforcement work.

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The protest was billed as the broadest showing of discontent within the police since 1983, when then Justice Minister Robert Badinter faced similar protests and accusations of laxity after gangsters killed two policemen.

This time, too, the discontent came to a head a week after a prisoner who was granted a brief out-of-jail permit seriously wounded a policeman in a shootout in Seine-Saint-Denis on the northern edge of Paris.

“There’s real anger here,” said police union representative Gregory Goupil.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls responded to the protest by declaring that the government plans to simplify the bureaucracy and formal proceedings surrounding detentions and investigations and that arms traffickers will receive harsher sentences in the future. He also said he wants to clamp down on inmates getting approved day leave in cases where it is not a “demonstrated need”.

“I hear the anger of the police and the [French] gendarmes, I hear their pain,” he said, adding: “The message of the protesters is being taken seriously.”

According to police unions, officers no longer feel they have the understanding of the judiciary, and a string of recent decisions to let criminals out of jail or free suspects from custody has brought frustrations to the boil.

The fact that the protest was supported by the whole range of police unions and grades was interpreted by local media as a sign that Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, often accused of refusing to adopt a harsh-enough line on law and order, was in danger of losing her job.

Beyond the protest in Paris’ chic Place Vendome square - home to the justice minister’s office and occasionally the scene of heists at luxury jewellery shops - rallies were also being organised in other parts of the country.

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon joined the fray to take a dig at Socialist President Francois Hollande.

“He must heed the pleas from the police and the French people, who all denounce the lack of authority,” Fillon said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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