An “overwhelmed” couple, violent on a daily basis, but wanting to keep their children: the prosecution requested on Tuesday two years in prison with probationary suspension against two forties from Noyelles-sous-Lens (Pas de Calais), tried for years of abuse on the eight youngest of ten siblings. The assistant prosecutor, Virginie Valton, asked the court to attach this sentence, with a probationary suspension of two years, to an obligation of care, justification of a professional activity, and the prohibition, “in the immediate”, to get in touch with the victims.
The deliberation will be delivered on February 9. “I will not dispute (…) the right for these children to say that for them, it was the house of horror”, launched the magistrate, taking up a qualifier used by certain media. But the parents were not “sadists”. “We are in between”, “in daily violence, trivialized”, she said. “We felt overwhelmed, tired,” tried to explain the mother, Christine B., 40, emaciated face under her long blond hair, describing herself “physically and mentally exhausted.
“Especially that our children know that we love them,” she said at the end of the hearing. With her husband Marc R., she appeared free for “violence by ascendant” on minors under the age of 15, without ITT (total incapacity for work), and “subtraction by a parent from his legal obligations”. “It was a nightmare, at times,” adds her husband, a 44-year-old auto repairman, who can only “a little” read and write and struggles to explain himself.
“Courage and strength” to other victims
Both dispute the physical violence denounced. Small pats on the hands, spankings, “but blows, never”, assures the father. One of the eldest, Bryan, describes him “a father who strikes”, a violent and “submissive” mother, unhappy, living on family allowances. When he leaves, he wants the trial to “give courage and strength” to other potential victims, to report themselves. He had called social services at the end of August 2022, triggering the seizure of the prosecution. A minor brother and sister were with him at the hearing.
At the family home, the police discovered two little girls aged two and four tied to their high chairs, using tight straps, in a deplorable state of hygiene. When heard, the siblings will recount years of abuse. Some evoke “slaps, punches”. Most report psychological abuse and serious neglect. Decayed teeth, pathologies or psychomotor delays badly taken care of: the children are “left to themselves”, summarizes a lawyer for the civil parties.
The father “told us + bastard, son of a bitch, I’m going to fuck you +. Always insults”, describes one of the teenagers. “If you have children you have to assume them” otherwise “you don’t”, launches, head held high, his 14-year-old sister. She says she is happy to be placed, affirms that she no longer wants to see her parents again.
“When you come to attach your children, why not ask for help?” Asks the president. The couple had been the subject of three reports since 2013. In 2016, heard by the police, he denied in block. The eldest retracts his accusations, the case is dismissed. In the spring of 2022, the parents meet with social workers. But they tidy up their house before each visit, hide their difficulties.
“I was afraid that my children would be taken away from me. I was placed in child care at the age of seven, I know what it is”, justifies the mother. “How could the institutions have been so deaf, blind?”, points out Véronique Boulay, lawyer for the association l’Enfant Bleu. In Pas-de-Calais, hit by unemployment and poverty, 7,744 children were entrusted to child welfare at the end of 2020, according to the Drees.
At the opening, the court had rejected a request for a closed session from the father’s lawyer, Bertrand Henne, who pointed to a disproportionate “media hype”. “We tossed a family in the food”, regrets the mother’s lawyer, Charlotte Feutrie. She asks for a “proportionate” sanction for “deficient parents, in difficulty, who have not learned to be parents”.