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Young offenders in the spotlight

Confession by a boy to the rape and murder of a schoolmate has ignited political debate

POLITICIANS of all political hues have reacted after it emerged that a schoolboy who has admitted raping and murdering a schoolmate had already spent time in prison in connection with a rape.

It comes after 4,000 people gathered for a march in memory of the victim, Agnès, 13 in Chambon-sur-Lignon, the Cévennes village where the crime took place.

An interministerial meeting is planned at Matignon this afternoon including Prime Minister François Fillon, Justice Minister Michel Mercier and the ministers for the interior and education, Claude Guéant and Luc Chatel. Mr Mercier has opened an inquiry into the affair.

Debate centres on the right way to deal with such dangerous youths and whether enough care was taken in this case. The school where the suspect, aged 17, is a pupil, has said they knew he had “had problems with the law, but didn’t know what they consisted of”.

Investigated for rape of a minor in 2010 in the Gard, the youth had spent four months in custody before being placed under judicial supervision. Judged to be “able to be rehabilitated and not dangerous” he was placed under psychiatric supervision and moved to a school in the Cévennes, where he was required to board.

Pierre Moscovici, Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande’s campaign director, said on Europe 1 that it was essential to “reflect on what could have caused such a drama, such a monstrosity”.

He said it appeared the school had not been well enough informed and there had not been a careful enough evaluation of the risks. He said it raised questions over whether “we have a sufficiently good system of evaluation of reoffending in France”.

The deputy headmaster of the school, Jean-Michel Hieaux, has said that he is “staggered that due to thoughtlessness and irresponsibility the system could have allowed a particularly violent youth to be placed in an open, mixed boarding school in the middle of the countryside.”

Another member of Hollande’s campaign staff, Aurélie Filippetti, said on i-télé teachers and school heads were not capable of dealing with such people. They needed to be placed in special units, not ordinary schools.

Government spokeswoman Valérie Pécresse said on RTL the key question was to find out if there had been mistakes and who was responsible. “We must ensure the protection of all our children,” she said.

Front National leader Marine Le Pen used the issue, speaking on France Info to raise her policy of a referendum on bringing back the death penalty or making life sentences perpetual.

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