Colour-Tainted Sentencing ?
Racial Discrimination in Court Sentences Concerning Offences Committed against Police Officers, 1965-2005
Research in France on possible prejudice on the part of the police or criminal court is scarce, surprisingly scarce given the explosive nature of the question that the November 2005 riots recently illustrated. The present research is an analysis of discrimination founded on the defendants’ origins in criminal and civil affairs, taking as base all those defendants tried for offences against police officers by a Paris-area criminal court between 1965 and 2005. The defendants in the “North African” group and the “Black” group (defined on the basis of their birthplace and surname) are roughly twice as likely as the “European” group of defendants to be imprisoned ; they are sentenced to longer prison terms, and run a greater risk of having the police officer involved sue for damages. Multivariate analysis, however, indicates that the court’s discriminatory decisions can be attributed to technical and procedural factors alone that launch court machinery into over-penalization of its “regular customers” among which the two groups mentioned above are overrepresented. This does not seem to be the case, however when it comes to the police officer’s individual decision as to whether or not to press charges for damages.