France has seen its share of criminal cases and decades later, we are still talking about stories like that of the assassination of little Grégory. Some French criminal investigations have been very poorly managed and this has led to changes in the law. You have to learn well from your mistakes.
After the affair of little Gregory
1. Crime scenes are now frozen
When Grégory Villemin was assassinated in 1984, the crime scenes were hardly protected. When the body is discovered, the gendarmes walk directly on the scene of the crimes but also the prosecutor, witnesses, journalists and people passing by. The crime scene was not marked and all those who walked the scene have potentially erased decisive elements of the investigation.
Since then, crime scenes have been systematically “frozen”. We tag and no one enters the scene until the criminal identification technicians have finished their work. Then, a guard is put in place to collect clues as long as possible.
2. Autopsies are much more thorough
Long after the death of little Grégory, one of the police officers confided that the autopsy had been rather summary. He remembers the removal of the clothes, the cords and the lungs, but nothing more.
For Thierry Lezeau, former lieutenant of the gendarmerie, this affair had “a fairly strong impact” on the development of forensic medicine in France. Today, forensic scientists take samples from under the fingernails and on the skin, as well as organ, blood and urine samples.
3. The various parties involved in the investigation must communicate more
Since the Gregory affair, the links are now much stronger between the forensic pathologist, the director of investigation and the magistrates. The investigation had been very poorly managed at the time, in part because the various professionals worked in their area; that was the norm at the time.
4. Interrogations of minors are systematically filmed
When the body of little Grégory was found in Vologne, Murielle Bolle was only 15 years old. She is called to testify and provides an alibi for her brother-in-law, Bernard Laroche. As her testimony is not consistent, the investigators question the teenager again, who ends up saying that she went with Laroche to pick up Grégory at his home by car, that Laroche stopped and left with Grégory before come back without him. The investigators are then sure to have cornered the killer. After listening to her statements, the examining magistrate lifts custody and lets Murielle Bolle go home. The next day, Murielle returns to her first version by assuring that the gendarmes put pressure on her and threatened her to force her to adhere to their version of the facts.
This story played a large part in the establishment, the following year, of article L413-12 of the code of criminal justice for minors, which obliges the audiovisual recording of all interrogations of minors placed in police custody or in custody. detention.
After the Fourniret affair
5. Police and gendarmerie databases merged
Before 2012, the databases containing the criminal records were separate for the police and the gendarmerie. Today, it seems completely inconsistent: how do you find a serial killer if you don’t have all the information? As during the affair of little Grégory, the case of L’ogre des Ardennes was not spared by the rivalry between the police and the gendarmerie.
In 2000, while yet another body of a young girl was found in the Ardennes, the antecedent databases are still distinct and the commander therefore found no antecedent for Fourniret in the “Police” file, not even the conviction. seven years in prison for sexual assault since it is in the “Gendarmerie” file.
After the Outreau affair
6. We must try to limit pre-trial detention
Even today, the Outreau affair is considered a legal disaster; a commission of inquiry was even charged with looking for the causes of dysfunctions of justice in this affair and to seek solutions to avoid the repetition of these errors. More than 50 avenues of reform have therefore been proposed, including the limitation of pre-trial detention. In the Outreau case, some suspects spent up to three years in prison awaiting trial, while 13 out of 17 suspects were ultimately cleared.
7. Police officers and magistrates are better trained to question children
Before the Outreau affair, the child’s word was sacred; it was inconceivable that a child could lie or be wrong. Today, police officers and magistrates are much better trained to receive testimonies and confidences from children so as not to influence them. For example, closed and leading questions (which can be answered with yes or no) are much rarer, it is preferable to use open questions and to let the child speak without interpreting his words.
8. We now know that the collegiality of investigating judges should be recommended.
After the Outreau affair, the media widely accused Judge Burgaud of incompetence. The latter, an investigating judge too inexperienced to be in charge of such an important case, would have made errors of assessment during the conduct of the investigation.
After the investigation, a new measure was proposed: that of advocating the collegiality of investigating judges when cases are complex. Several judges could thus collectively assume the decisions taken, which would limit the solitude of magistrates, which often leads to errors. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer investigating judges in France and therefore too few to assign several to the same case.