On Wednesday, the Versailles Court of Appeal, called upon to rule in the investigation into the facts of rape Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, decided to extend the proceedings to facts appearing to be prescribed. These are facts dating back to 2004, denounced by Florence Porcel. She accuses the former star presenter of TF1 of having raped her in 2004 and of having imposed oral sex on her in 2009. Patrick Poivre d’Arvor denies the facts.
The facts of 2004 had been dismissed for prescription during a preliminary investigation in 2021 and were therefore not included in the judicial information carried out by an investigating judge in Nanterre. According to a source close to the case, the decision of the Court of Appeal “allows the instruction to continue on all the facts” and to decide in a second time as to their prescription or not.
The lawyer Khadija Azougach, general secretary of the association Lawyers for Women, which fights against violence against women, analyzes the springs and consequences of this decision of the Court of Appeal.
Is this the first time that a court of appeal has decided to extend the proceedings to facts that are a priori prescribed?
For acts of sexual violence, it would seem that this is a first in the media cases. But we should not be too surprised, because it is in the prerogatives of the examining magistrate. The investigating chamber has in its prerogatives a power of revision and reformation and as such it can extend. She is seized in rem, that is to say because of the requisitions of the prosecution or because of the complaint. In this case, there is a complaint from the victim, in which she recalled the facts of 2004.
What does it change in the legal process?
In the procedure, this will essentially make it possible to analyze the case in a global way because it is a complainant who recalls two facts, one dating from 2004 and the other from 2009. This makes it possible to analyze the situation in a global way, the complainant’s age, the various events to measure consistency or not. It can make it possible to requalify, to extend the offense if it is felt that there are elements that have been overlooked. Even if subsequently there is no prosecution for the facts of 2004, these events can shed light on the investigating chamber.
What is the symbolic value of this decision?
The symbolic value is that we listen to you, we hear you. This is important because until now, 90% of sexist and sexual violence has not been prosecuted, because there is the difficulty of proving that it is intimate.
The investigating chamber gives a signal to the legislator by saying that it is ready to reclassify the acts of rape, and symbolically it is saying “I hear a victim who has filed a civil action and who is talking to us about facts of rape in 2004. I’m going to analyze this even if it’s prescribed, I’ll take a prescription to that effect, but I’ve heard all the same, I can’t out of my sleeve say that it’s prescribed without take due diligence”. This is a symbolically essential point.
The case is quite publicized, so in this way, it is essential what the investigating chamber has just done for all the victims. She tells them to go file a complaint, that they do the work, analyze within the framework of the law.
I think that this decision of the investigating chamber is important for freeing the voice of the victims, for the other magistrates who will be in the same dynamic to say to themselves that it is not because the facts are prescribed that it is should not be taken into account anyway.
This will give a little more hope to the victims. You should never assume that the game is done.
What can we expect next?
Either the investigating chamber refers to an investigating judge, or it can itself take up the file and requalify and extend the investigative measures. Once she has taken all her steps, she will take an order, either to refer to an examining magistrate, or she will refer to an assize court. It can also make a dismissal order, if the constituent elements are not met. The investigating chamber has quite extensive power, it is she who assesses whether or not she is able to return or keep this file.
The defense said it was waiting “to have more precise elements before reacting and commenting, if necessary, on a court decision which would be free of the rules of limitation”. Can she file an appeal?
The investigating chamber extends to the facts of 2004, that does not mean that it will hinder article 112-2 of the Penal Code on prescription. The defense will analyze whether the investigating chamber retains this qualification for 2004 and it is in this that it can raise nullities. The defense can request investigative measures such as expert opinions but it can also raise nullities, in particular in the event of non-hearing within the time limits, if a qualification is retained which is not provided for this type of facts. If the investigating chamber retains the facts of rape for 2004, the defense could raise the nullity.
The investigating chamber takes its precautions, ensures that the complainant understands that she is taking her complaint globally and that she will decide in two stages: on the one hand on the facts, on the other on the prescription. But for the time being, that does not mean that it will derogate from article 112.