Why convicted French politicians nearly always escape going to jail


On Monday December 5th former French president Nicolas Sarkozy began an appeal hearing following his conviction for corruption in the so-called 'Paul Bismuth' or phone-tapping case. At the original trial the ex-head of state was given a jail sentence but has not served a single night in prison. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan explains why it is that French politicians who are convicted in corruption cases so very rarely serve jail time despite the heavy prison sentences that such offences can attract.

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Why isn't this corrupt politician going to prison when we happily put petty criminals behind bars? It is a question that keeps stubbornly cropping up after virtually every political corruption case in France. Some might grumble that it is based on simplistic and populist reasoning. But that doesn't mean it isn't also based on some reality. For while the number of offences of dishonesty is on the rise, we see very few politicians sent to the Republic's jails, which are, by the way, bursting at the seams (72,809 prisoners in jails with 60,698 places in November).