two lawyers discuss the relationship between law enforcement and justice

Authors respectively of cops lawyer and Freedom lawyer, two books which appear on February 16 at New World editions, the two criminal lawyers Laurent-Franck Liénard, specializing in the defense of the police, and Yassine Bouzrou, known in particular for defending the family of Adama Traoré, debated Tuesday on franceinfo. Opposed on the question of a possible “impunity” of the police, they also discussed the notion of “police violence” on which they do not agree.

franceinfo: Why do you do this job?

Laurent-Franck Lienard : I decided to defend people who need me to mobilize my energy for them and with my ethical prism. I decided to defend people who think they are doing good when they get up in the morning. I don’t want to defend someone who commits theft. He doesn’t interest me. It is a choice of professional comfort.

Yassine Bouzrou : When you become a lawyer, you want to defend fundamental rights and freedoms. The cases that I deal with and that I develop in this book are really cases where I believe that the lawyer becomes, in quotation marks, the last rampart of freedoms, because other legal actors are not enough. This is what I explain in this book and I believe that our role today, as lawyers, is really to defend these freedoms and these fundamental rights which, unfortunately, are regressing day by day.

Is there police violence in France?

Yassine Bouzrou : I am a lawyer and I am a jurist above all. It turns out that I can’t dispute that the police have a legitimate right to violence. A police officer has the right to be violent within the framework of his profession, when this violence is legitimate. I make the distinction with illegitimate violence. When a police officer violently arrests a person who has just committed a major offense and needs to use force, I do not dispute that as a lawyer. On the other hand, when this violence becomes illegitimate, it is normal, in my opinion, in a State of law, that this policeman finds himself facing justice and is condemned. I also hate the term “burr” which, in my opinion, has no use, quite the contrary. You really have to distinguish illegitimate police violence from legitimate police violence.

Laurent-Franck Lienard : I go a little further because I refuse the term “violence”. For me, violence is an offence. I’m talking more about the use of force that is legitimate or illegitimate. It only becomes violence when the use of force is illegitimate. However, the use of force is in the policeman’s DNA because he is a member of the police force. The semantics are important because when we talk about police violence, we make people believe that the police are systematically violent as soon as they use force, and that it is necessarily illegitimate when there is a use of strength. It is not. Illegitimate violence is committed by people who are police officers, but these are people who are violent and who do not respect the law. It’s dangerous to talk about police violence.

Do the police enjoy impunity?

Yassine Bouzrou : In my book, I talk about the many files I have handled, a good hundred. In all these cases, what I systematically notice is that there is either total impunity, or what I call near impunity.

When a police officer who is convicted of extremely serious violence is sentenced to a suspended prison sentence, a simple fine or a reprimand, I find that we are getting closer to impunity.

Yassine Bouzrou

at franceinfo

But yes, in all the cases I deal with, there is impunity and organized quasi-impunity. I explain it well in this book, with supporting evidence. For me, the problem is not so much police, it is above all legal. Today we have prosecutors who behave like police lawyers. I see it at the hearing in the processing of cases, systematically in the cases that I deal with. Unfortunately, there are investigating magistrates who do not respect the law as they would respect it in a classic case. It feels like an obstacle course while the elements are sometimes obvious, with many charges.

Laurent-Franck Lienard : I have magistrates who are extremely severe with the police, even terribly severe, without any motivation. When one enters the cabinet of an examining magistrate, very often, the prism by which the file will be examined, it is terrible.

The magistrates do not give gifts to the police, far from it.

Laurent-Franck Lienard

at franceinfo

It’s almost a double penalty to be a police officer, even a triple penalty, since first, they will be indicted with a ban on carrying a weapon. So they will lose their jobs. Then they will be criminally sentenced. Then, they will be condemned administratively. Impunity does not exist at all for the police.

Are the images of the use of force by the police, regularly broadcast on social networks, misleading?

Laurent-Franck Lienard: I take an image that marked the country, which is that of the evacuation of the Burger King on December 1, 2018 during the demonstration of the ‘yellow vests’ near the Arc de Triomphe. On these images, we see CRS who are beating people who are on the ground with truncheons. If you take this raw image, you say to yourself that the police are violent, that the police are fascist, that the police are terrible… However, if you contextualize that, you know that these police officers are people who have been 7am on the spot, who fought all day without drinking, without eating, who walked eighteen kilometers around the Arc de Triomphe that day. When they are near the Burger King, it is 7 p.m., they are totally exhausted. They can’t take it anymore. They have lost all lucidity. It must be understood that a policeman put in such a situation who has not been relieved despite several calls for help, who has not eaten and who has not drunk, who has taken tear gas all day and who almost died because people wanted to kill him, is not the image of French police violence.

Yassine Bouzrou : All our clients put forward a context to justify criminal offences. But normally, magistrates put that aside because we can’t say that because the context is complicated, we have the right to break the law. The context is a bit easy. When you commit such a serious offence, you have to answer in court and not use this defense which is so easy as putting forward a context. If it’s too complicated for you to use a weapon, then change your job.

We talk a lot about the self-defense of police officers and this notion which must be relaxed for many candidates. Eric Zemmour, for example, wants to draw inspiration from Swiss law and the notion of excusable defence. What do you think ?

Laurent-Franck Lienard : You can do whatever you want with the law. What matters is to explain to the magistrates who apply them what the ins and outs of the texts are. Because today, self-defense as it exists is very good. It provides very good guarantees for the police officers I defend. On the other hand, it is badly applied by the magistrates who do not understand the legislative modifications which are proposed by the candidates, and which are useless and dangerous modifications.

Yassine Bouzrou : I agree with my colleague when he says that the law today is well done, but it is a question of appreciation. However, I do not have the same conclusion. Personally, I believe that today, magistrates interpret legitimate defense very badly. Today, it is enough for a police officer to say “I was threatened 20 seconds or a minute ago” for then self-defense to be accepted. So, in fact, we just have to apply the law as we do in all cases.

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