In two recent shocking cases at the Monaco criminal court a retiree is charged with downloading child pornography and a man is charged with family child abuse.
Case 1: Downloading child pornography at age 77
A retired national education employee, a former schoolmaster who seemed above suspicion, has appeared in court recently. He was accused of downloading from his home near the Exotic Garden eleven files of child pornography, featuring young children, and storing them on his laptop, from 20-22 March 2015. The judges sentenced the French national and former teacher to a suspended sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment and his computer equipment was confiscated. It was no secret. The Monegasque police have tracked down cybercrime using software that monitors IP (Internet protocol) addresses connected to sites specialising in sexual assault against minors.
On 12 April, 2015, the application received an alert on the actions of an individual surfing the web. They quickly made contact with the accused. As this grandfather had gone to his secondary residence near Paris, the agents questioned him on 22 September. As a first step, they took a sample of his DNA to compare it with the fingerprints listed in the Interpol files. No match was found. The analysis of the computer and hard disk revealed in June 2015, however, the reconfiguration of computer tools and the presence of unbearable paedophilic images with girls aged seven to twelve. In police custody, the retiree having no previous criminal record, acknowledged that he had downloaded these files on his personal account, once in Monaco and twice in France.
“How could you commit such acts?” asked Judge Jérôme Fougeras Lavergnolle, keeping in mind that the man at the stand, with his greying hair, had had a job working with children.
Photo source: getty images
“Four years ago I wanted to download movies, like Les Culottes Rouges, with Laurent Terzieff, which can’t be found commercially. Friends advised me to search for it on Emule (a downloading site). However, child pornography images were added by accident. I looked at them. But I did not take pleasure in them. I consulted the images in order to carry out a scientific study. I felt entrusted with a mission: to prepare a study on the safety of children and their development.”
Skeptical, the magistrate wanted a more honest answer.
“Yet, you are a married man with a grand-daughter. You have been in charge of a school. You were doing everything in secret. For what purpose did you continue? What were your ultimate intentions?”
The septuagenarian, visibly uncomfortable, was forced to explain himself.
“I gave in to curiosity… I wanted to know how and why the children were exploited in this way. To understand the feelings of these manipulated and misled children, and the monstrous behaviour of the adults. I erased them after each viewing to avoid having them on a hard disk…”
The judge began again: “And in Monaco, eleven files in two days, for what reason? Especially since you made these images accessible by downloading them on ‘peer-to-peer’ platforms that allow file exchanges on the Internet.”
“Again, the images appeared automatically, as soon as I posted the search,”stated the defendant whose banal exterior did not in any way betray his very particular inclinations. “In the face of these horrors, I uninstalled everything and I never tried to download anything again. As for the series of photos of girls in swimsuits, it was also purely by accident, I was looking for images illustrating Nature… I was wrong! I regret it! I understand the atrocity of my actions.”
These statements angered the prosecutor Alexia Brianti.
“Either the accused is mocking us or his intentions are questionable. It is alarming and astonishing to hear such explanations: everything was done by accident while he was trying to document the excesses of society. There is no need to view twenty-one files to capture the horror of the sexual exploitation of children. It is also serious to claim that they were willing to suffer such atrocities! This demands an appropriate sentence: two years with suspended sentence in prison.”
The defence Christophe Ballerio protested against the statements of the representative of the public prosecutor’s office.
“My client never changed his story and has not tried to avoid justice. How could he be mocking the court? Is it wrong to tell the truth? His curiosity is unhealthy, but he was doing some specific research. He stopped everything two years ago. Thus, the sentence is disproportionate…”
The court received the message and lowered the requisitions of the public prosecutor to 18 months.
Case 2: Family child abuse
One year in prison! The criminal court, overseen by Virginie Zand, has just sentenced a Monegasque man of thirty-three years of age after three days of debate. The accused, a married man with three children, was found guilty of indecent assault on two nieces, aged 10 and 12, between 2013 and 2014. Intimate caresses on the thighs, buttocks, genitals, and chest, and kisses on the mouth occurred repeatedly in the family home, in Italy, where the girls slept on bunk beds. They were forbidden from speaking of it to anyone. Of course, deviant acts against children are always the most hidden. The law of silence reigns supreme, especially for sexual abuse. But the suffering quickly became unbearable for the young victims. Insomnia, nightmares, pain… Then the facts came to light seven months later. On 2 February, 2015, when she returned from school in tears, the eldest admitted what was happening. The perpetrator was arrested on 10 September, imprisoned and released on 23 February 2016. In turn, on the stand bore witness to the activities of this particular family, and their liberal sexual behaviour. The mother was a victim of rape. The uncles engaged in hedonistic behaviour, and one of the uncles was even part of a swingers club in Switzerland. The accused was also the victim of the same type of indecent assault by a family member, in this same house located in an Italian municipality of the valley of Nervia, in Liguria.
Did he then endure the insufferable by engaging in risky behaviour, often creating an imaginary world in which to take refuge? Was it the fault of history repeating itself? Most likely. His wife did not satisfy him. He frequented prostitutes and travelled to Thailand. Psychiatric experts, however, excluded any pathology. This man became aware of the seriousness of his actions and acknowledged the facts six times.
For the prosecution, represented by Hervé Campana, unquestionably this had provoked, many years later, anxiety and panic attacks,and avoidance behaviour. The aggression should not be minimised. These girls required a just decision in order to regain confidence in themselves and in society. To rebuild their lives and for their dignity! Their trauma would require 20,000 euros each in compensation. The court allocated half.
The representative of the Attorney General’s Office noted that the facts had been recognised in their entirety, as well as the approach of the accused, who has repented and has agreed to commit himself to voluntary care. But an important sanction was needed. Already convicted in 2006 for a narcotics offense, the accused was no longer able to access a suspended sentence. Would he risk the maximum penalty in the Penal Code of ten years’ imprisonment? In order to find a just appeasement to all this suffering and violence, the prosecutor Cyrielle Colle required a sentence of two years. Finally, the defence, Franck Michel, demanded the lightest possible punishment, in order to avoid creating an unbearable situation for the family and not to condemn the future of his client. The lawyer will insist to the court that this was an isolated act, with expert conclusions on unlikely recidivism and without any tendency towards paedophilia. Determined, the lawyer highlighted the accused’s planned regular consultations with psychiatrists upon his release from prison and the uselessness of inflicting a heavy penalty.
In its decision, the court will choose the minimum sentence. After six months of pre-trial detention, and if any remittances are withdrawn, this Monegasque man will return to prison for three months.
In the summary, these two cases from the Monaco criminal court are horrible reminders of the fact that children require our continued protection and that at any age and under any circumstances there can be perpetrators of crime such as child pornography and child abuse.