Friday 8 October 2004


Shot By Both Sides draws our attention to legalistic goings-on in France.

A CRACKDOWN on drink-driving in France entered new territory yesterday when a couple went on trial for allowing an intoxicated dinner guest to drive away from their home and cause a crash that killed him and four others.


The couple are charged with “failing to prevent a crime or lesser offence causing bodily injury”. The prosecution arose from a night in February 2000 when Frédéric Colin drove away at 3.45am from dinner at the Fraisse’s home at Maizières-les-Metz in Lorraine.

He went the wrong way up a motorway and collided with a car carrying a family of five. M Colin died, along with the parents and two children in the other car. The grandparents of a surviving five-year-old boy applied for proceedings against the Fraisses when Colin was found to have a blood alcohol level of 2.4 grams a litre. The legal maximum is 0.5. An investigating judge later dropped the case, but it was reinstated by an appeal court.

The Fraisses said that they did all they could to prevent their friend driving home. “We tried to take his keys but he wouldn’t let us,” Mme Fraisse said. “I suggested that he spend the night with us, but he didn’t want to. The prosecutors think I should have called the police but that is not realistic. ...”

In other news, the French authorities will now jail you for allowing cars to overtake you when you're driving at the speed limit, failing to disarm bank robbers, or not telling them that everything in every Parisian street market is nicked. (OK, not everything.)

This summary of the debate's a bit odd:

Safety campaigners are hailing the case as a sign that the state is getting serious with the alcoholic driving that plagues France. Motoring orgnisations are depicting the Fraisses as victims of a new “blame culture”.

Why motoring organisations? Why would they feel any need to speak up on this couple's behalf? They didn't get in a car; they didn't do any driving. Why isn't it justice organisations or civil rights organisations or a major political party who are up in arms? Or, if they are, why aren't they making enough noise to be noticed by The Times's reporter? And are all safety campaigners in favour of this, as the article implies? Somehow, cynical though I can be about the French, I doubt it.

A café owner in Burgundy was given a two-month suspended prison sentence last year for “complicity in drunk-driving” because he had served a bottle of wine to a client who was intoxicated.

When Churchill said that a Socialist state couldn't work without something along the lines of the Gestapo, he was mocked.

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