Word reaches me, direct from gay Paris, that Nicolas Sarkozy, the former pocket President of the French Republic, has been convicted on charges of offering to bribe a judge in return for information. He denies the charges and will appeal. He has the support of his drop-dead gorgeous wife Carla Bruni, who described the conviction and sentence as ‘harcèlement insensé’ (senseless harassment*), and franchement (frankly*), what’s good enough for her is good enough for me.
The French have come a long way since Le Roi Soleil (sun king *), and not all of it memorable for the right reasons. The unbelievably pompous and self important Charles de Gaulle, he who sat out the Second World war in London with no sense of gratitude for what the Allies did for him or La Belle France, was a ‘douleur dans le cul’ (‘pain in the arse). The joke was told of him when he unexpectedly entered the bedroom and startled the fragrant Madame de Gaulle. “Mon Dieu” (my God*), she exclaimed, to which he replied: “Yes I know, but when we are alone, you can call me Charles” (sacré bleu).
To name two more, Mitterand was deeply corrupt, as was Jacques Chirac, and I could go on, as corruption and incompetence seem endemic in the Elysée Palace. To this list may be added the name of Sarkozy depending on the outcome of his appeal. As to that, “les balles sont dans l’air” (the balls are in the air*).
Of greater interest to the likes of me as a lawyer is the sentence of 3 years in prison, 2 suspended, and the first year to be spent ‘chez lui’ (his pad*) with an electronic tag. Nobody has asked for Carla’s reaction to being ‘amochée’ (banged up*) with Nicolas. Those of us who are surviving the lockdown know only too well how time can hang heavy on our sanity, so ‘on va voir’ (we shall see*).
Here in the UK we have 83,500 serving prisoners, of whom 68% can be described as non-violent, and a fair proportion who shouldn’t be in prison in the first place. The idea of using prison as a short term expedient has been shown over and again not to work. I am therefore attracted to the French idea of serving part of a sentence at home. Imagine the benefits: several prisons could close their gates for the last time, and serving any part of a sentence at home but with restricted liberty is treating offenders as human beings and not caged animals. Reoffending rates would fall dramatically.
Given Boris Johnson’s determination, against all the odds, to keep Priti Patel as his Home Secretary, if she were to adopt this scheme, it would show that she is not a complete waste of space around the Cabinet table. That dubious honour would pass without demur to Gavin Williamson, still trying to master his two times tables. He would then become everybody’s whipping boy, and ‘bonne chance’ (good luck). It would also give Priti more time to hunt down the illegal immigrants and see them off.