French police missed chance to save lives of 41 per cent of women killed by their partners, report finds

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Femicide is a pronounced social issue in France, with feminist campaigners staging
Femicide is a pronounced social issue in France, with feminist campaigners staging

Police missed opportunities to save the lives of 41 per cent of women murdered in France by current or former partners, according to a damning justice ministry report released on Sunday.

The women had told police they feared they were in danger, but little or no action was taken, Nicole Belloubet, the justice minister, said. “The criminal justice system is not satisfactory. This report points out difficulties and dysfunctionalities.”

The report, which she commissioned, suggests that twice as many women in France murdered by current or former partners had previously been in touch with the police than in the UK.

A fifth of women killed by intimate partners in Britain had had prior contact with police in the 12 months ending in March last year.

If convictions for domestic violence and murders are grouped together, the figure for missed opportunities in France rises to 65 per cent.

The French statistics are based on an investigation of 88 cases of murder and attempted murder by partners in 2015 and 2016, for which final court judgments have been delivered.

The high incidence of “femicide”, or the killings of women by intimate partners, is a major social issue in France.

Ms Belloubet called for police and legal officials to be better trained in handling domestic abuse cases.  

France and Germany have higher rates of murders of women by current or former partners than many other EU countries, including the UK.

At least 124 women have been killed in France so far this year, compared to 121 for the whole of 2018. The figures for Germany are comparable.

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<span>Activists hold placards with the names of women killed by their partners</span> <span>Credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File </span>

<span>Activists hold placards with the names of women killed by their partners</span> <span>Credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File </span>

Activists hold placards with the names of women killed by their partners Credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File

With an average of three women now being killed each week in France by a partner or former partner, public alarm is increasing despite a crackdown on domestic violence by the Macron government.

The issue gained huge media exposure in September, when Mr Macron overheard a policeman refusing to help a woman whose husband was threatening to kill her. 

During an unannounced visit to the national domestic violence hotline centre, the president listened while an operator tried in vain to convince the police officer to intervene. After the call, the operator told the exasperated president that such incidents were happening “more and more frequently”.

Ms Belloubet called for French law be changed to allow doctors who suspect women are victims of domestic abuse to breach medical secrecy and notify the police.

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“It is necessary to go beyond medical secrecy,” she said. “If a doctor sees that a woman is being battered, I would be shocked if the doctor could not say so.”

Women’s groups are to demonstrate in Paris next Saturday to highlight the problem of femicide.

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