‘I know that you are an asset for our society,’ says French judge to youths convicted of firebombing police officers

By John Cody
4 Min Read

After six long and trying weeks of closed hearings, and four years after the incident, the verdict has now been handed down for the 13 young people accused of having attacked and burned police officers with Molotov cocktails in Viry-Châtillon (Essonne) in 2016.

On Saturday evening, the Paris Assize Court for minors convicted on appeal five of the 13 young people tried for six weeks after firebombing two police cars during rioting. The court sentenced five young people to terms ranging from six to 18 years in prison and acquitted eight others.

According to sources present at the sentencing hearing, the judge began by addressing the accused and saying, “I know that you are an asset for our society.”

The reading of the verdict was interrupted by a fight in the box of the accused, which required the intervention of about 30 police and gendarmes. The clashes then spread in the courtroom, where the families of the accused were present. Order was restored after about ten minutes.

After 14 hours of deliberation, the five convicts were found guilty of attempted murder on persons holding public authority. Although the accused faced life imprisonment, three of them were sentenced to 18 years in prison, one to eight years in prison, and the last to six years. The other eight defendants were acquitted.

The court thus did not follow the requisitions of the Advocate General who had requested a single acquittal and sentences of 12 to 25 years of criminal imprisonment for the 12 other defendants, now aged 21 to 26 years. 

The firebombing attack in 2016 provoked nationwide headlines and footage of the burned officers fleeing their vehicles were broadcast on prime-time news.


In the first trial, eight of the defendants had been sentenced to terms of 10 to 20 years of imprisonment and five others had been acquitted. The prosecution, which had requested sentences of 20 to 30 years in prison, appealed, claiming that the sentences “did not draw conclusions” from the “gravity of the crime” committed.

In addition to the police officers burned in the attack, others were hurt while trying to rescue them.

Violent acts against the police have doubled in the last 20 years, according to statistics from the government. Police officers have been consistently targeted, ranging from shooting incidents, riots, and group assaults, leading to calls from the country’s police unions for left-wing President Emmanuel Macron to enact reforms to combat violence against the police. 

Title image: A man tries to pull off fire on a burning police car during clashes while police forces gather to denounce the almost daily violent clashes at protests against a labor reform, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

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