All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Cast not a clout till May be out...except in Deux Sevres

A view of Niort from the Sevre Niortaise river...Image via Wikipedia

Deux Sevres is not, as you might think, a description of two finely decorated porcelain plates.
It is a department of France, one of the four which make up the region of Poitou Charente.

As Michael Caine might say .......Not many people know that.

This used to include the French Tourist Board.

Apart from its geographical position, Deux Sevres can also lay claim to a cultural position....that of being firmly in what is described as 'la France profonde'.
Which means an area where if something has not been done before it certainly won't be starting to be done now.

A further explanation.

I know that the saying about casting clouts refers to not being deceived by the advent of spring into discarding your winter woollies too early and getting frostbite in areas best not to contemplate, but clout has another meaning.....
It is also a blow, as in 'gave him a clout' and just at the moment, people in Deux Sevres have the exciting possibility of giving other people in Deux Sevres - excluding maires, gendarmes and other protected species - a clout and getting away with it.....but only up to the end of May.

Whence this sudden immunity...and why only in Deux Sevres?

Under much external and internal pressure, France has finally decided to conform the to European Convention on  Human Rights in respect of the right to a fair trial.
Legislation has been passed, and is due to come into effect on June 1st, to the effect that persons hauled in by the forces of order in pursuance of their investigations will have the right to have a lawyer present during the whole of the proceedings, instead of just for thirty minutes of it, as at present.

This is going to give problems to the producers of the police serial 'Engrenages'  (or 'Spiral', as it is known on English language television)  where the brutality of interrogations forms an integral part of the action...but that's their worry.

Now, in a sudden rush of blood to the head, the Cour de of the four Supreme Courts of the French justice system....has announced that as far as it is concerned, from the date of its judgement on Friday April 15th, any verdict in a case where a lawyer was not present for the whole process of interrogation will be annulled on procedural grounds, as being in breach of the Human Rights Convention, which states that all signatory countries must be in compliance, even if their own laws are in breach.

Panic in the dovecotes.
Fancy announcing that just before a weekend! And with the Easter holidays coming up!

The police and gendarmerie are gearing up....setting up information centres to acquaint themselves with the novel idea of having an observer of their traditional practices....
The Parquet (prosecutors' department) is gearing up....wondering what the hell to do about the cases currently in the sausage machine where the accused certainly did not have a lawyer present throughout his interrogation.....
And the avocats (trial lawyers) are gearing up....arranging for more of them to be on call, while wondering  whether they will be paid for this service since the law providing for their payment is not yet in force.

The reaction of the avocats in Deux Sevres?
Their batonnier (shop steward) is outraged.

The Cour de cassation has no power to make law.
Quite right, Maitre...but it hasn't. It has just said what it will do in cases where there is a breach of the Convention on Human Rights.

And it's Saturday!
Well spotted, Maitre!

And I can't do anything until I consult my colleagues.
Which would have been on Monday except that they will be on strike on Monday.
Tuesday, then, Maitre?

And in any case, we're not ready. We will not be stampeded and will not be implementing these changes until June 1st, when the law comes into force.
La France profonde has spoken. Law south of the Loire.

So this is the unprecedented opportunity for the inhabitants of Deux Sevres to run riot until midnight on May 31st.
Sure in the knowledge that no lawyer will be accompanying them for the entire duration of an interrogation they can do as they please.
Clout whom they like.

They might well be convicted at first instance in Deux Sevres...but not to worry.
All they have to do is to go to the regional Court of Appeal in Poitiers and their conviction will be overturned for non observance of procedure.

So if you're living in Deux Sevres....lock up your daughters and make way for the Lord of Misrule!
Until midnight on May 31st.

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  1. Thanks for the warning, Fly! What a pity our house is in Normandy and we won't be there until mid-June. I quite fancy running amok :-)

  2. Perpetua...think outside the a gite in Deux Sevres for May and let your imagination run riot!
    I'm almost tempted to book a flight...

  3. Hmmm highly tempting, it's been a while since I have run riot on foreign shores. Time I began.

  4. Jimmy, this could start a whole new tourist boom...

  5. Short but very sweet! Tempted though I am I have a date with DD for a trip to Italy in May to mark our two big birthdays and that comes first :-)

  6. Perpetua, Deux Sevres always dips out....but many congratulations on all your landmarks....

  7. 'Panic in the dovecotes'; I liked that.

    I was wondering too what a Welsh equivalent might be... I shall have to ponder

  8. Mark, the response was certainly nearer to panic than to mere'd think the legal world was coming to an end because it all happened just before the weekend.

  9. Nice to know that I could be waterboarded within an inch of my life, confess to everything under the sun, and still get away with it (technically).

    Still not convinced that crime would pay in this case.

  10. Steve, the sort of crime that does pay usually sees you elected to public office or to the board of the company...
    And you're probably right...the gendarmes could enjoy themselves re enacting Spiral for a further six weeks...

  11. Hello:
    Oh, the machinations of foreign law. Here in Hungary we have a new decree which forbids criticism of the government! Recently a ruling that all blogs had to be registered was thrown out! What next?

  12. Jane and Lance Hattatt, seems a bit strong that, to forbid criticism of the government!
    What do they expect people to do with the time thus saved from communal moaning sessions...start a revolution?
    And what about Turkey, where Blogger is being shut down...?

  13. As to Spiral, is the point of it that the baddies, police and judges and the system generally are ALL as bad as each other? Conditions in UK prisons look like Hi-De-Hi holiday camp by comparison with the French. We can't wait to see if the Inspector of Police ever looks as if she has had a shower and put on clean clothes. We watched the Danish 'The Killing' and thought that her pullover could do with refreashing!

  14. I was briefly excited at the thought, but then discovered that I couldn't think of any mayhem that I would like to wreak. Sad.

    Amazing story though.

  15. Hi Fly,

    This pretty much summarises my understanding too, but I am most surprised that it's the avocats who are complaining. Reading Maitre Eolas, I'd imagined that most of them would be supportive of this move.

    However, I wouldn't be keen to push my luck on this one. I'm sure if I clouted a police officer, or committed an "outrage" an avocat would be found fast enough to ensure I got nailed.

  16. Lesley, yes, the jumper in Killing and the never changed Defi Mode clothing in Spiral intrigue us too...

    Pueblo girl, true. After the first rush of adrenalin as to the possibilities, the thought of actually doing it put me off...

    Mark in Mayenne, doesn't surprise me. A more dozy, self obsessed lot you would be hard put to find. Anyone decent and straight gets out fast.
    And yes, like you I feel that my collar would soon be felt were I to dot a maire or cross a gendarme on a T junction.
    Nomatter what the state of the law.

  17. Mark in Mayenne...I was too hasty. Thinking it over I can recall two who were sort of O.K....but I don't know if they're still there.

  18. Dumdad, two of the batonnier's flock have said they'll implement the court's decision immediately despite what he the inhabitants of Niort will have to commit their mayhem in gendarmerie areas well away from the departmental capital....

  19. Les gens de la France profonde are strict followers of 'if it ain't broke...'. New technology is no excuse, either.

  20. Sarah, usually a good way of living life...unless you're in the clutches of the local polizei...

  21. I burst out laughing at "panic in the dovecotes" as well. Fly, how do you manage to always know all these strange and bizarre things going on in France. Do you get some sort of "only in France" newsletter? You continue to be a wealth of information. I'm going to Deux Sevres for my 52 birthday. I want to personally cause a little trouble in the dovecotes!

  22. Delana, how do I know?
    I have friends! And we're all amused/appalled by the same sort of things. And we all exchange news.

    You want to know about the war on immigrant frogs?

    The strange affair of the electricity supply to a restored chapel?

    All this and more is at your disposal....

    Seriously, you should visit the Deux Sevres....and don't just go to the Marais is a beautiful department.
    But you'll need a car.
    E mail me for suggestions (for where to visit) can organise your own mayhem.

  23. the last episode..she'd not only washed, she was wearing perfume!

  24. TFITW.... Just a cover-up?

  25. Fly, only in Deux Sevres? What a shame. I can think of quite a few people in France I'd like to clout....

  26. Lesley, shudder tot hink what else might be revealed...

    Wylie Girl... and now the lawyers are on strike in all lots of areas for more pay in order to undertake their new duties....Deux Sevres has had its fleeting moment of fame...

  27. ‘Casting clouts’…made me chuckle. “Cast me another clout over would you Phil” - “Yeah, okay Fly…here you go then…catch!”

    Okay then. I’m up for it. Once I’ve hit the beach in Normandy, which frog do I have to slap first?

    Can I reserve a nice airy cell with a view of the courtyard – and a pichet of house red, with my ficelle et fromage?

  28. Phil, as usual in France a good thing never the blasted lawyers are on strike for more pay and the police reckon that if one doesn't arrive within two hours of being called they will go ahead anyway with the waterboarding, etc...
    Apart from which the CRS...the ones who bash first and ask questions of those still living later....are somewhat wroth as well....higher authority has stopped their drink ration, so if they're not getting a pichet of red with their meals I think you'll be waiting a long time for yours.
    On the other hand, they are thinking of going on strike about the lack of booze.....