French teenager prosecuted for stealing her mother's chequebook

French teenager prosecuted for stealing her mother's chequebook
By Ruby Harrold-Claesson, lawyer



Ruby Harrold-Claesson, attorney-at-law is the president of The NCHR


This article was written for the NCHR's web site and for Family Integrity, New Zealand.


This story has been spread in almost all French national and regional newspapers this week (August 11, 2007).


On August 9, a 14-year-old French girl was summoned before the juvenile judge in Thionville (Moselle) for running away from home and falsification of cheques. The girl was reported to the police by her own mother.


It all started on 22 June when this schoolgirl had left the family residence with one of her classmates, taking her mother's chequebook and bankcard with her. The two absconders used them on several occasions to finance their escapade. They took the train to Marseilles. After having settled in at the hotel, the teenagers started living the good life: shopping sprees and visits to the hairdresser. Their escapade lasted only a few days, and cost about 2 500 Euros. This sum is much more than her mother earns per month as a cleaning woman, in a one-parent family.

Thanks to the traces left by the stolen cheques, the police could very quickly locate both runaways. After one night in police custody, the two girls were released, with time set for them to appear before the judge. The juvenile court will judge the case in September. No measures for educational placement have been taken, but since her return to Moselle, the girl left her mother's home to stay with her elder sister.



Faithful to a tradition with roots in Roman law, for considerations pertaining to the "cohesion of the families", the law is reluctant to engage in penal sanctions against family members. According to legal doctrine, there is no theft between spouses, and the rule applies to all the close relations: parents, children and spouses. The strength of the family bonds appeared powerful enough for the legislator to justify the existence of special immunities (criminal). Theft committed by the husband, the father or the child may be established, but family immunity is ensured to avoid the scandal of a prosecution that is presumed as being "against nature". Since 1994, the law deals not only with theft but also with other offences such as swindling, breach of trust, etc.


But then, on what basis can the court of Thionville prosecute?


The law of 4 April 2006 reinforcing the repression and the prevention of marital violence poses an exception to the principle of family immunity when the theft "relates to essential objects or documents to the everyday life of the victim such as documents of identity (...) or means of payment". The new law has made it possible to prosecute the girl because of the amount of money that was stolen and the report made by her mother. This may well be "contrary with the spirit of the law" which in fact was made to prevent a violent husband from exerting a moral constraint on his wife, by stealing her papers. But that is not this case is about. Moreover, if the girl had stolen her mother's jewellery, she would have been able to claim family immunity.


In any case, the application of the law places the mother in a delicate situation: plaintiff and victim, she remains "legally responsible" for the misdeeds of her under aged daughter.

It is very unusual for parents to report their children to the police, but Swedish legal history since 1978 has seen thousands of cases where children have reported their parents to the police with subsequent fines or prison sentences for smacking them perhaps for having stolen at home, at school or at the supermarket etc or for having lied or being abusive or spitting on them or kicking them or for ill-treating younger siblings.


The world is truly going mad.



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By Rebecca Papprill

Six year old called the police - to punish mother
By Annika Sohlander

Girl calls for police help over messy room
Berlin (Reuters)


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