Collapse of Child Sex Case Shakes French Courts
The Daily Telegraph, 02 Dec 2005 by Colin Randall in Paris
The French judicial system was shaken last night by the collapse of a case in which 13 innocent people were accused of belonging to a paedophile ring.
Six people, including a priest, were cleared by a Paris appeals court after it became clear that a simple abuse case implicating two couples, who admitted raping or molesting children, had escalated into a witchhunt against neighbours and relations.
A further seven people were acquitted at the original trial in St Omer, northern France, last year. Several of those wrongly accused were held in jail for up to 30 months during the inquiry. One committed suicide and some had their children put into care.
In an extraordinary step, the prosecutor, Yves Bot, had called at an appeal hearing in Paris for all the remaining accused to be cleared and described the affair as a "disaster" for French justice.
Mr Bot also apologised to the defendants. "We must make sure this never happens again," he said.
The case, known as the Outreau affair after the town where all involved lived, centered on allegations of rape and other attacks on children between 1995 and 2000.
One couple, Thierry and Myriam Delay, admitted abusing their four children and were jailed for 20 and 15 years respectively. Their neighbours, David Delplanque and his girlfriend, Aurelie Grenon, received sentences of six and four years for lesser offences.
Among those cleared yesterday was Fr Dominque Wiel, a Roman Catholic priest who had received a seven-year sentence.
During the appeal, psychologists and social workers admitted that their original findings were flawed. Two children also said they had made up their stories.