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Author Topic: Train crash at Br^tigny-sur-Orge - multiple fatalities - 12 July 2013  (Read 26252 times)
stuving
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« Reply #60 on: January 27, 2016, 02:01:20 pm »

The criminal investigation of this accident is still going on, and Le Canard Enchain^ is today suggesting that SNCF (now with added RFF) is schooling its staff in what to say to the prosecutors. On the evidence, it's pretty clear that SNCF/RFF are guilty of some kind of manslaughter. If there is still something SNCF fear, it is probably that the current charge (accidentally causing death) is replaced by one of recklessness or wilful causing death.

Is this a shock horror scandal story, or just the French way of doing things? It's hard to say, though some of its features (prosecutors tapping witnesses' phones, the leaking of what should be secret prosecution details to the press) are very French.

I can imagine that an employer would want to warn staff about what to expect - along the lines of:
  • Just answer the questions. You'll have enough difficulty dealing with that, without volunteering information on extra topics.
  • Be very careful what you say and how you say it. If you later correct something that's not quite right, they may still keep coming back with your incorrect version and saying it's "the truth" and the rest is all lies.
  • Stick to what you know directly, and never mention rumours or things that "everyone knows".
  • If you are asked about rumours, morale, or that kind of subjective stuff, make clear in every reply that it is just your impression and may be wrong.
  • Remember that prosecutors are not objective, they have their own agendas - political, internal office politics, various prejudices, personal ambition, etc.
(The first of those was mentioned in the story as being part of the manipulation.)

Of course that could easily then go on to rehearsing the "story" and editing its text, which I guess we'd all call manipulation (or perverting of the course of justice, if wearing a suit). SNCF have refused to comment on a story based on leaked documents.

Le Canard Enchain^ is resolutely old-fashioned, and its accommodation of the internet age extends just far enough to put a facsimile of its front page on line. This story isn't on the front page, so there's only the like of this second-hand version.
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TonyK
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« Reply #61 on: January 28, 2016, 12:37:52 am »

I read the French article about the article, and agree, stuving. This doesn't look like the English way of doing things - a judge bugging the phone calls between an accused person and his company's lawyers? I know that major criminal matters are investigated by a judge in France, but I cannot imagine a Detective Chief Superintendent even asking for an intercept warrant from the Home Secretary in such a case.

As for coaching the witnesses, I can't see much wrong with what was said - "Come with nothing - you should wait for their questions" is probably what every solicitor tells every defendant before any court case. I spent a fair bit of time in courts, mainly magistrates, but Crown on more than a few occasions. I was told by the judge on one such occasion to answer the question, and only the question, telling the court only what I myself knew with certainty, not what I thought everyone knew. Apart from anything else, it saves the court time that could be spent arguing what was and what was not admissible. I had to explain this myself to witnesses in cases I was involved in, and it was nothing untoward. Manipulation of the evidence, or asking someone to give false evidence is another matter, never crossed my mind, and isn't alleged against SNCF.

This is a huge case in France, but unless the judicial rules are vastly different to ours, this seems much ado about nothing. I assume that, like here, there is a fine distinction between "dangerous" and "careless" in driving offences, and between "negligent" and "dangerous" actions leading to manslaughter. The difference in sentence can be measured in years. This is before the company's reputation is called into question. I would be surprised if the employees had not been advised by the company's lawyers.
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stuving
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« Reply #62 on: January 28, 2016, 01:33:12 am »

I read the French article about the article, and agree, stuving. This doesn't look like the English way of doing things - a judge bugging the phone calls between an accused person and his company's lawyers? I know that major criminal matters are investigated by a judge in France, but I cannot imagine a Detective Chief Superintendent even asking for an intercept warrant from the Home Secretary in such a case.

Bugging supposedly privileged phone calls with a lawyer is exactly what was done to Sarkozy - but that did smell strongly of political motivation. Examining magistrates still have the power to hold people in custody just for interview, which were almost unlimited before the recent(!) introduction of something like habeas corpus.

It is exactly at this initial instruction phase that the French system is so different. It is led by the examining magistrate, who is a judge but on loan to the prosecutor's office (parquet). Normally the leg-work is done by the Police Judiciare but in this case most of that's been done by BEA-TT. So they are nowhere near court yet, and the comparison is with an employer advising staff before a - rather formal - police interview.
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TonyK
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« Reply #63 on: January 28, 2016, 10:04:50 am »


It is exactly at this initial instruction phase that the French system is so different. It is led by the examining magistrate, who is a judge but on loan to the prosecutor's office (parquet). Normally the leg-work is done by the Police Judiciare but in this case most of that's been done by BEA-TT. So they are nowhere near court yet, and the comparison is with an employer advising staff before a - rather formal - police interview.

Thanks for the clarification, stuving. We are talking similar to the Interview Under Caution here. I have conducted many of these. Some of those where the suspect was accompanied by a legal representative led to the answer "No comment" to every question except name and date of birth. All perfectly legal, given that I had just told the unfortunate subject of my attentions that he did not have to say anything, slightly frustrating, but I wouldn't be interviewing if I didn't think the evidence merited at least an explanation, and on more than one occasion disadvantageous to the suspect.

As it is nowhere near court yet, I can't see what advantage these recorded conversations could give to the prosecution. They remain no more than advice by a lawyer to a client, albeit with a rather fruity turn of phrase on one occasion.
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stuving
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« Reply #64 on: January 10, 2019, 01:54:53 pm »

Le Parisen reported this morning that one of the three SNCF (then RFF) employees implicated in the case, and previously "witnesses under caution", has been mis en examen - charged with a criminal offence, roughly. The prosecutors' office at Evry has confirmed only that step about an unnamed SNCF employee.

The newspaper report says more, that it was the local track maintenance manager (the other two being his direct reports). He did the last inspection before the accident, and the independent engineering reports said (based largely on the state of the fracture surfaces) that the relevant trackwork damage was present at that time.
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