Image by doug88888 via FlickrRecently there has been an unpleasant case.
An elderly man was found guilty last year of sexually abusing a girl some time ago when she was still in her teens and was sentenced to a spell in prison.
This summer, she was shocked and surprised to find him walking the streets of her town, free as a lark.
Had be been granted early release?
No, he had never been sent to prison at all.
He had never tasted the French equivalent of porridge.
Nothing had happened to disturb the even tenor of his days.
He was, it appeared, too old to go to prison.
He was, it appeared, too ill to go to prison.
The judge responsible for sentencing had not been able to find time to consider what else to do with him.
So he was free.
He had never received the punishment awarded him.
While she was still trying to cope, not only with what had happened to her but also the dreadful experience of going public with it all, he had been getting on with his life, untouched by the hand of the law.
It was rather a shock.
She .....rashly...went to see him, together with a friend.
Words were exchanged, words led to blows and some damage done to his garden as they left.
She and friend were, of course, arrested.
She agreed to accept a new sort of court appearance...'.comparution sur reconnaissance prealable de culpabilite' - CRPC - which was introduced a few years ago to get cut and dried cases through the courts quickly.
In appropriate cases, if a person acknowledges their guilt, they are interviewed by a prosecutor who proposes a penalty. A judge then either accepts or refuses the proposition brought before them.
She admitted the facts and was awarded ...given the special circumstances of the case....a one month suspended sentence.
She was told firmly that society could not tolerate individual acts of vengeance.
What is happening to the man who abused her?
Well there will be a later hearing to determine what she must pay him in damages for her outbreak.......and the judge responsible for finding an appropriate punishment in view of the claims about his age and health will try to make time to see if putting a tag on him would be all right.
I'm not holding my breath.
Years ago, there was an unpleasant case.
A gang of farmers were demonstrating about the price they were receiving for their meat at the abattoir.
As part of their demonstration they set fire to a lorry.
The lorry was full of lambs from England, all of whom were burnt alive while the farmers cheered.
The farmers were interviewed by the gendarmerie.
The dossiers were sent to the local court where, mysteriously, they disappeared from view.
No one seems to have made any enquiry as to why this case never came to court, although the farmers involved boasted openly of the power of their judicial connections.
Of course society cannot tolerate individual acts of vengeance.
That is why we have law and judicial institutions, to keep the wolves from the throats of the lambs.
But when the wolves are welcomed into the fold of the judicial system....where are the lambs to turn?