After Bettencourt – why France's justice system urgently needs reform


One of the greatest political-financial scandals of France's Fifth Republic has been reduced to the level of just another human interest story of money and greed. The verdicts handed down by the courts in the Bettencourt affair on Thursday – in particular the acquittals of former budget minister Éric Woerth – have stripped the scandal of its powerful political dimension. In doing so, argues Mediapart's editor François Bonnet, France's malfunctioning justice system, dependant as it is on its political masters, has shown yet again that it is suffering from a profound malaise.

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The Bettencourt affair, one of the greatest political-financial scandals of France’s Fifth Republic, is thus reduced to nothing more than just another human interest story: the tale of an old lady fleeced by several smart conmen. Illegal financing of politics; the handing out of sinecures and honours; pressure on the justice system; political scandal: the judges have come along with their red pens and none of that now remains. The double acquittal of Éric Woerth on Thursday May 28th – despite some harsh judicial comments in the judgement – just like the case being dropped against Nicolas Sarkozy in the same affair in 2013 – once again amid some tough judicial language - shows us once again that the justice system in France is in the same state as our democracy. In other words, it is suffering from a deep malaise.