Accused will face lesser offence of sexual assault in ‘Julie’ case that has sparked protests across France

By Mark Hodge

France’s highest court has ruled that firefighters accused of raping a girl when she was aged between 13 and 15 should be charged with the lesser offence of sexual assault.

The alleged victim, known only as Julie, claims she was raped by the firefighters from different stations over two years after she was groomed by a man named Pierre.

She claims to have met Pierre, who works for the fire brigade in Paris, when he helped her during a severe anxiety attack when she was 13-year-old. Pierre allegedly took the teenager back to his apartment in full uniform and raped her.

Two other firefighters then came over and allegedly gang-raped the child as they watched pornography.

Julie was allegedly raped by 20 firemen who have not been charged with rape – sparking protests across France Credit: Rex Features

Three of the 20 men accused have admitted they had sex with the girl – however they claim they were consensual encounters.

Yet, Julie says she was “terrified and paralyzed with fear” during the experiences.

She claims the men visited her home 130 times over the 24 month period leading to her mental and physical health suffering.

Julie told police that she was scared to leave the house and was prescribed anti-anxiety pills.

‘GROOMED AND ABUSED’

It is alleged that Pierre obtained Julie’s contact number from her medical file which also clearly stated her age.

She claims he bombarded her with “affectionate messages” before asking her to undress in a video chat.

Julie alleges that Pierre passed her phone number to another firefighter after she agreed to take her clothes off.

Lorraine Questiaux, a lawyer representing the woman and her mother, told The Associated Press that the court had not given “any credible justification for the decision, and they passed the buck.”

The mother, Corrine Leriche, said she and her daughter would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Protesters in Paris. The hashtag #JusticePourJulie has been used by feminist and women’s campaigners. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

“France should be ashamed of this verdict. It shows that we live in a patriarchal country, where the state is essentially issuing permits to rape,” the mother, Leriche told the AP. “My daughter was profoundly vulnerable. We are devastated.”

France’s lack of an age of consent , along with statutes of limitations, has complicated efforts to prosecute alleged perpetrators, including a prominent modeling agent, a predatory priest, and a surgeon accused of abusing hundreds of children.

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