Since January 2022, lawyers can visit places of deprivation of liberty like parliamentarians. In the Val-de-Marne, the bar seized the ball under the aegis of the chairman Edouard Billaux. On Friday, several visits took place unexpectedly in the police stations of Créteil, Choisy-le-Roi, Vitry-sur-Seine and Villeneuve-Saint-Georges.
9 a.m. this Friday, September 2. They are ten lawyers to meet in front of the Créteil police station. A surprise visit to assess the custody cells. “This is a prerogative that was granted to us very recently, in the law for confidence in the judicial institution of December 22, 2021. This right of access has only been effective since January 1, 2022 and this is the first time we use it”develops Édouard Billaux, president of Créteil.
With the exception of psychiatric hospitals, the Bâtonnier and his delegation can therefore visit all places of deprivation of liberty to assess them, measure the size of the cells, observe the distribution of meals or even ensure that the premises are clean. “A major social advance which makes it possible to break the opacity of these places, to use the conditions of detention as an instrument of pleading, and also to relay the needs of the police officers”insists a lawyer.
A few minutes after 9 a.m., the lawyers enter. On the other hand, reception is refused to journalists.
Dirty cells, broken surveillance cameras, difficulties in getting doctors to come
After more than two hours of visit, the delegation comes out of the police station with a first mixed assessment. “The reception was very good at the police station, but access to the delegates was refused in the territorial security department, which manages, among other things, cases of narcotics, burglary, or even the minors’ brigade. I’m the only one who was able to get in.” testifies Édouard Brillaux. “The officer showed a very personal reading of the legal texts. Elsewhere, this is not how they are interpreted”, regrets Pascale Taelman, former president.
On the merits, the delegates report dirty cells and many surveillance cameras out of order. “It’s a problem for both those in custody and the police!”, insists Édouard Billaux. Lawyers also report that civil servants tell them of difficulties in working. Two problems stand out: the understaffing, as well as the difficulty of bringing in doctors, who are often reluctant to travel.
Similar problems in Vitry-sur-Seine, Choisy-le-Roi and Villeneuve-Saint-Georges
After Créteil, the lawyers are divided between the Vitry-sur-Seine, Choisy-le-Roi and Villeneuve-Saint-Georges police stations. “Here again, the police told us about understaffing, under-occupied offices and their difficulties in bringing in doctors. For minors, it is sometimes the police who go to the emergency room themselves. On the other hand, the detainees refused to speak to us”explains Jamila Sarraf, one of the lawyers who visited Villeneuve-St-Georges.
Once the police force’s right of reply has been drafted, a report of these visits will be made public. Eventually, the delegation aims to visit all the police stations in Val-de-Marne as well as the Fresnes prison.