Penal mediation in France
Penal mediation is an alternative measure to penal proceedings, like the reminder to law, the measure of compensation and penal settlement.
 Penal Mediation in France
In France, penal mediation has been institutionalized by the law on January 4, 1993 and amended by the Act of March 9, 2004. It is an alternative measure to penal proceedings, like the reminder to law, the measure of compensation and penal settlement.
The mediator (a judicial police officer, a delegate or mediator of the prosecutor) attempts to gather the parties in order to ensure the compensation of injuries suffered by the victim, stop the nuisance caused by the offense and contribute to the reclassification of the offender.
Only the prosecutor can initiate a penal mediation, before any judicial proceedings. The mediator acts as a "delegate of the prosecutor", and, as such, can establish and sign with the parties the "official minutes" which is named "requisition" by the French model presented by the Ministry of Justice. The official minutes value as official decision or judgment and are enforceable.
It must notice that it concerns only "minor offenses". Mediation suspends the provision of public action (Article 41-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
Penal mediation did not implicate the inscription of the conviction on the criminal record of the perpetrator.
It is therefore the legal ancestor of "to plead guilty" or "appearance with prior recognition of guilt" which covers crimes punishable up to five years of imprisonment, but whose prosecutor does not delegate the negotiation... and whose flux is managed by the public Ministry.
 Process of Mediation
The mediator convenes both parties (victim and perpetrator of the offense) who are allowed to be assisted by a lawyer if they wish. With the help of the penal mediator, the parties will try to reach an amicable settlement (payment of damages and interest, apologies...).
The two parties are allowed not to respond to the convenings or refuse the mediation attempt.
If an agreement is reached, the mediator establishes a written document that is signed both by the perpetrator and the victim. The mediator verifies the compliance of the agreement terms and provides to the prosecutor a report regarding the outcome of mediation.
In case of disagreement or non-compliance with the agreement terms, the mediator reports it in writing to the prosecutor.
The positive outcome of mediation enables to close the case without extinction of the public action.
In case of non response of the convenings, refusal of proceeding or disagreement regarding the modalities of compensation, the prosecutor decides on following judicial action regarding the complaint: judicial proceeding or closure of the case.
 Examples of Offenses
- Concealment of goods from larcenies;
- Carrying and possession of weapons of 6th category;
- Occasional use of cannabis;
- Illegal intrusions into a school;
- Damages to private or public property;
- Larcenies, scams, breach of trust, swindles of small gravity;
- Concealment from these crimes;
- Family abandonment;
- Non-representation of children;
- Offenses of average severity committed in the neighborhood framework;
- Offenses of average severity committed in the professional framework;
- Malicious phone calls;
For a precise classification, see the files on the website of the Ministry of Justice (French).
 The Penal Mediator
Commonly called "Penal Mediator", because he intervenes at the request of the prosecutor concerning minor offenses, the official texts (Article 41.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) specifically designate him under the title of "mediator of the prosecutor of the Republic" (more in the sense of "spokesman").
Since its establishment, penal mediation is performed by retired peoples of the gendarmerie and national police and by associations like INAVEM (Institut National d'Aide aux Victimes et de Médiation - National Institute of Aid for Victims and Mediation). However, the official texts provide for that the mediator can be an individual, independent professional or "Citizens and Justice".
The success rate of penal mediations which were treated in 2000 by various associations (142) was rather low: 58% (19,382 on 33,391). See document on the official website of the Senate (French).
The mediator or the delegate of the prosecutor must fulfill the following conditions:
- not to exert judicial activities as a profession;
- not to have been the subject of a judicial sentence, a disability or forfeiture as mentioned on the criminal record;
- to provide guarantees of competence, independence and impartiality.
In cases involving minors, the delegate or mediator of the prosecutor must also have indicated his interest regarding children's issues.
 The Exercise
Some penal mediators consider that the one who has recognized his guilt has to repair his offense; others go deeper into the reality of disputes and promote a meaningful discussion between the parties.
"The accusing finger can be returned toward the one who is accusing"...
Sometimes, family disputes that are the subject of a penal mediation have causes that protagonists themselves ignore. It is the same for neighborhood disputes that occur from generation to generation. The intervention of the mediator who is concerned not only to proceed to an application of the law but to succeed a conflict resolution enables to identify the cause and the penalty becomes meaningless.
 Official Texts
- Act of January 4, 1993 and amended by the Act of March 9, 2004
- Code of Criminal Procedure: section 41 and D.15-1 and following, Law of December 18th, 1998.
- Article 26 of the Act of February 8, 1995 not applicable to penal proceedings
 External Links
- General information regarding modes of Alternative Dispute Resolution on the website of the Public Life (in French)