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gg g or anyone with french legal experience...have got a letter, but do I have to go to court?

(31 Posts)
Nighbynight Tue 07-Oct-08 06:48:08

last year, ex h hit me in the face and smashed my car when I went to pick the children up in france. it has finally come to court, and I have got a letter, but it is just headed "Avis a victime". (language not an issue)
no mention that I am a witness, just invitation to submit a claim for costs (which were not small - car repair, return journey etc)
It is classified as violence against a spouse, which is angry as we divorced years ago.
it seems to be optional if I go or not. is this normal?? Will it prejudice the result if I dont go (long journey)?

have little hope of getting anything back from ex h, but feel that I should put the claim for compensation in anyway, as my suffering doesnt seem to be measured in any other way.

any experiences welcome!

AuldAlliance Tue 07-Oct-08 20:57:40

Was going to ask DH (French lawyer) about this, but he's conked out on the sofa!
I think it is indeed normal, i.e. you are under no legal obligation to attend the hearing. However, from what I gather it obviously makes a better impression if you do go. Absence can be interpreted by judges as indifference towards or even disdain for the legal system and some may feel that if you are making a claim for compensation then you should show up. Will ask DH for confirmation of this tomorrow, as I think he's out for the night...

Is there anyone who could go to the hearing on your behalf? I'll ask DH if that is advisable, or failing that if you could write some form of letter explaining the reasons for your absence.

I'll also ask about the description of the offence: I suspect that violence against a spouse is a specific category of violence, irrespective of whether the person in question is still your spouse or not. I think French law qualifies the relationships between perpetrator and victim quite precisely: attacking your 'spouse' may be classified differently to attacking a random passerby in the street.

I'll try and get back to you soon.

Nighbynight Tue 07-Oct-08 21:34:09

oh thank you AA!
I am a bit hmm about the implication that hitting a spouse is different from hitting a stranger (less serious perhaps?)

The reason why I dont want to go, is that I am near munich, and it will cost an arm and a leg in lost pay, petrol & babysitting. (getting costs back is not that simple)
Also, ex h is quite capable of repeating the offence if he sees me.

On the other hand, I do want to make sure ex h gets hammered, as he committed many other offences that never went to court, and he seems to suffer from the belief that he can do what he likes when it comes to violence against his family. He thinks the french authorities allow it, basically.

Nighbynight Tue 07-Oct-08 21:36:49

I think I have got to go, really, to make sure they throw the book at him. He has got to learn the lesson, otherwise he will just do it again with impunity.

AuldAlliance Tue 07-Oct-08 21:56:52

I did admittedly wonder whether, in the dim and distant past, violence against your spouse might have been deemed less serious than that against a stranger. I don't think that is at all the case now, in fact I think it might be the opposite, but will check with DH (penal law is not really his field, but I know he loves this kind of enquiry).
I can understand why you'd want to be there; I'll see what DH thinks about it all tomorrow.
Can I ask where the hearing will be? Is there any practical way we can help?

Nighbynight Tue 07-Oct-08 22:10:02

thank you for the offer! I think you are a bit far away though actually - it is in 67.

Nighbynight Tue 07-Oct-08 22:11:49

I have already been the victim in another court case in germany where he attacked our house. Didnt get a cent back for all the broken stuff there, either.

AuldAlliance Wed 08-Oct-08 20:56:40

Right. Here goes...

DH says that if you can go, you should, for the reasons I mentioned. He went further than I did and said that some judges are in fact more indulgent towards the accused if the victim doesn't turn up, because they tend to feel that if the offence was serious, the victim would move heaven and earth to go.

He also said that, for your sake and that of your children, you should try and express your point of view before the court, so that there is a written trace of the truth, rather than allowing your ex-h to present his vision of things and having that go down on record as the only version of events. If you can't make it to the hearing, you should, in DH's view, be represented by an avocat and preferably the best one you can afford. TBH, the cost of adequate legal representation might not be much more than the expense of the trip from Munich sad.Ideally you would both go yourself and be represented by a good avocat, but that would be very pricy.

Hitting a spouse is, as I was hoping, an aggravating circumstance rather than a mitigating one, so DH supposes that this also applies to ex-spouses, though he'll try and check the ^code pénal^ when he has a moment, to be sure. [Why do half of my italics work and not the other half???]

I presume you know this, but if you want to claim compensation for the material/physical/psychological damage, you need to declare yourself a ^partie civile^ before the court, since asking for compensation is a different type of proceedings. You can get an avocat to do it on your behalf, but if the formal procedure is not carried out, the question of financial compensation will not be raise. This is because unless you are a ^partie civile^ the judge's task is to punish the accused in the name of society on the whole, for a crime committed, rather than to award any form of compensation to an individual victim, for suffering caused. IYSWIM hmm

Not sure how clear any of this is. I'm off to bed soonish, as am exhausted, but will check MN before collapsing onto my pillows, and will be back tomorrow. Feel free to ask if any of the above isn't clear, or if there's anything else you want me to ask DH.

67 is indeed a bit far from 84...

I'm really sorry you're having to go through this.

AuldAlliance Wed 08-Oct-08 20:57:29

God, what a long and verbose post blush.

Nighbynight Wed 08-Oct-08 21:31:14

thank you thank you thank you and dh.

Right, I will move heaven and earth to go. Damn, I will ahve to cancel a dentists appt, and sleep in the car.

Not much point having an avocat, as ex h doesnt work, so I wont get any money back or compensation.

Unfortunately, ex h is a native french speaker, and I am merely a compentent english person. ex h is also extremely intelligent, educated and eloquent, and very sneaky, and likely to insinuate all sorts of nasty things about me that I may not understand if he uses unusual words.
I guess my best hope is to be honest and look genuine, and competent.

Will I get the opportunity to tell my version of the story, if they don't call me as a witness? As far as I can see, the invitation is optional. I gave a statement at the time, of course.

I am not sure about the partie civile thing, but there are instructions for returning the form, and I think that is it. I am knackered at the mo, so will check it tomorrow.

thank you once more.

Nighbynight Wed 08-Oct-08 21:34:10

In fact, I am sure that ex h will try and turn it into a circus centred round what a bad person I am, and how my disrespectful and provocative behaviour made him mad. Problem is, he is on the french wavelength, I merely love the country!

AuldAlliance Thu 09-Oct-08 08:26:51

Just checking in sneakily (meant to be working). I'll ask DH whether you get a chance to speak, but from what he said last night I am fairly sure you will be offered the opportunity to express yourself. My understanding is that your presence is theoretically optional because the case is deemed to be between the state and the accused, but as you are a key player in the events under trial, your point of view will necessarily be asked for if you attend.

I'll also ask for more details about how you become a partie civile.

I just wanted to say, since I can predict that DH will say this, that if you think your charming ex is going to use his eloquence in French as an arm against you, then if you can afford it you should really try to get an avocat to help you in your defence. A good lawyer would be an invaluable ally in many ways. I'll also ask DH if he knows whether you can ask for an interpreter to be present, even if you do have competent French.

Failing that, I agree that honesty is the best policy. If you don't fully understand the terms used by your ex, then what's to stop you from saying so? There's no shame in admitting that subtle insinuations have gone over your head. (I'll get DH's professional opinion on this later!!)

From what I gather, this is your opportunity to get a stop put once and for all to your ex's behaviour. That's why DH thinks you should go all out and do everything you can to win.

We're gunning for you smile!

ggglimpopo Thu 09-Oct-08 08:29:22

ring me!

Nighbynight Thu 09-Oct-08 08:55:22

I have just spoken to the victim support, who advised me to write a letter giving my side of the case, and send it with the bills from the garage etc.
This seems like a good idea, as well as turning up to the hearing.
I will stress the community aspect of it - this would be understood in germany, hope its the same in france.

Nighbynight Thu 09-Oct-08 09:00:03

posts Xed - yes I know I should have an avocat - but I have paid more than 3500 euros to lawyers in the last 12 months, for droit de garde as well as things to do with ex's violence, and I really can't face paying out even more.
I even had to pay the court expenses for a droit de garde case brought by ex h against me in germany, because they couldnt get them back from him.shock

ggg, I will get on the phone!

AuldAlliance Thu 09-Oct-08 12:29:52

You will definitely be given the chance to speak if you attend.
You have the right to request that an interpreter be present to assist you.
If the partie civile thing isn't clear from the letter, give me a shout.

Nighbynight Thu 09-Oct-08 20:42:06

well between you, you have persuaded me to get an avocatgrin
He is drawing up a huge shopping list of things to claim back.

Not sure about a translator. It might be confusing to have english in one ear and french in the other. I think I will just rely on the avocat to explain stuff in simplified french or german - he does not seem to be addicted to legal speak, fortunately.

ggglimpopo Fri 10-Oct-08 11:00:42

The court will provide a translator who will translate outloud to the court if needs be, or clarify a point if not clear. I would definitely take them up on it. I had translator and speak fluent french - only used to clarify a quote where the word "fucking" was used......wink

Victims aid

You need as much help as you can get to put up a fight against a bully.

Bonne courage.

AuldAlliance Fri 10-Oct-08 12:39:57

I agree. The interpreter is there to help you, so only needs to intervene if assistance is required. Better to let the lawyer focus on the legal aspect, and leave the linguistics to another person. Especially if you can exploit it as ggg did...
It's a free service, unlike much else; might as well avail yourself of it.
Fingers crossed for you.

Nighbynight Tue 14-Oct-08 12:22:05

Its all gone pearshaped. I had asked the lawyer about the remboursement, and he told me that the justice would repay me his fee and other expenses, as well as compensation for my broken car. Then he asked for a partial up front payment, because I live in another country, so I said OK and paid it.
Today, he revised his previous advice and said that the court would issue a certificat that my ex has to pay them. Apparently, I had misunderstoodhmm
Ex h will never pay a cent, and has no money in france. I told the lawyer right from the start that this is a no go.

Then the lawyer said, well you can get the money back via victim support. so I said, is this sure, and he said yes. so I said OK, we are still on.
Then I made some further enquiries and discovered that I would have to pay a bailiff before I would be allowed to get money back from the victim suppoort. So, having already paid about 1500 euros for my broken car, I would have to fork out another 2000 euros or so in expenses, lawyers fees, baillifs, before perhaps getting a fraction back from the victim support.

Oh, and the lawyers said that I will also have to pay up front for the translator if I want one.

f**g shit, victim certainly means victim in france. angry

so I am sacking the lawyer. Will still go, with all papers, to try and get ex h punished.

ggglimpopo Tue 14-Oct-08 17:38:07

Nonsense - court provides translator. Compensation does not nec need baliff - bad advice there. Contact vict'aid tomorrow first thing - you need that lawyer, even if he is talking financial bollocks.

Nighbynight Tue 14-Oct-08 17:51:38

too short notice for translator, apparently.

chief lawyer of victims aid told me that the scenario is, court gives judgement that ex h should pay - ex h pays nowt - victim support must be satisfied that I have pursued every possible avenue to get the money before they give me anything.

victims aid just shuffles you onto a lawyer, they dont actually answer any questions or do anything.

I am too tired and too far away and too worried. And have already paid out too much money for ex's shit. he cost me c15 - 20 K euros in 2007 alone.

Nighbynight Tue 14-Oct-08 17:57:33

sorry for being dripsmile

I am just getting the french cold shoulder - nobody actually wants to help, but if I pay them copious amounts of euros, they will go through the motions.

I dont think ex h's lawyer will get the better of me (hope not, anyway) as his client is a nutter and I have got so much documentary evidence of violence now.

ggglimpopo Tue 14-Oct-08 17:58:44

ring me in a couple of hours

Nighbynight Tue 14-Oct-08 17:59:52

I have to leave now, am still in germany. Will wind up somewhere near where I am going in the small hours. Will not take the mobile internet with me, as sleeping in the car.

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