Pardon for battered wife highlights paradoxes of French system of government


President François Hollande has just granted a full pardon to Jacqueline Sauvage, a woman who killed her husband after he had continually beaten her and sexually abused their daughters. Hubert Huertas says the decision to act having hesitated for so long over the pardon sums up Hollande's presidency. He also argues that the case illustrates the limits of French democracy and highlights the issue of judicial scandals.

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So, it required four years for Jacqueline Sauvage's judicial fate to be distinguished from that awaiting murderers, thieves, rapists, drug traffickers and fraudsters. One day in September 2012 this 66-year-old woman, who had suffered for so long and who was seized by panic, killed her husband. Were there extenuating circumstances in her favour? Two or three come to mind: 1) this man had beaten her for years; 2) this man was sexually abusing their three daughters, also over a long period; 3) her son, worn down like her, had killed himself just before she committed her “crime”. The fact that the justice system, on a point of principle, found the accused guilty after two trials is its right, and is also the law. However, the fact that the same justice system on two occasions judged that after such a litany of woes this woman had to be sent to prison for ten years, and had to be kept there like a lost or dangerous person is quite another thing.It was after the second of these rulings that President François Hollande finally granted a full pardon to Jacqueline Sauvage, urged on by public emotion and following interventions by several feminist collective groups, support committees and political figures. These personalities covered a wide political spectrum and included the socialist mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, the right-wing president of the Paris region Valérie Pécresse, right-wing Member of Parliament and former minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, former green European MP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and radical left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.