Two police officers from one of France’s elite units have been sent to jail for seven years for the gang rape of a Canadian tourist.
The officers took Emily Spanton back to their headquarters at 36 Quai des Orfèvres after an alcohol-fuelled evening at an Irish bar in April 2014.
Once in their fifth floor office, Spanton, 39, said their attitude completely changed. She said she was made to drink a glass of whisky before being forced to perform oral sex. She said she was raped several times afterwards.
Spanton, who admitted she was very drunk, left the building about 80 minutes later. She was in tears, had lost her tights and was carrying her shoes. She said she told an officer at the entrance to the police headquarters “they raped me” in French and in English.
The officers, Antoine Quirin, 40, and Nicolas Redouane, 49, both members of the prestigious anti-gang Brigade de Recherche et d’Intervention at the time, were not named during the three-week hearing under a French law protecting those working in sensitive police jobs.
They had denied the accusations, claiming Spanton had consented to sex. Police found they had destroyed vital evidence including photographs and videos taken on the night. Quirin initially denied any sexual contact with the victim, but changed his story after his DNA was found on her underwear.
The officers also alleged that Spanton, who is the daughter of a police officer, had initially said she was the victim of a “vol” (theft) not “viol” (rape).
Spanton’s lawyers complained during the hearing that it was as if she was on trial, after she was questioned about her clothing, drinking and sexual habits.
After an initial investigation, magistrates threw out the case against the officers in 2016, deciding there was no case to answer. The public prosecutor and Spanton’s lawyers appealed against the decision and succeeded in bringing the case to court.
In his summing up on Thursday morning, the prosecutor, Philippe Courroye, said he was “deeply convinced” the officers were guilty of attacking Spanton.
“By taking advantage of a young, drunk foreigner, by treating her as an object they have gone over to the side of those they pursue … they have lied, failed, concealed,” Courroye told the court. He demanded a seven-year jail sentence.
After eight hours of deliberations, the jury agreed.
As the verdict was announced, Quirin burst into tears and collapsed into the arms of his lawyer.
Afterwards, Spanton’s lawyer Sophie Obadia said her client was relieved: “Women in France who have been raped don’t have to justify their private life. The court has found that Mme Spanton did not lie, she is not a liar. She was portrayed as a liar, she did not lie.”
The defendants’ lawyers said they would appeal against the conviction on Friday morning and would ask for the two men to be freed awaiting another hearing.
There has been widespread criticism of the handling of the case. Spanton was tested for alcohol and drugs, questioned for five hours after the attack, and had her hotel room and computer searched. Investigators later travelled to Canada to question her friends and family.
The two police officers returned home in the early hours of the morning in question without being breathalysed. The crime scene was not secured and pieces of vital evidence disappeared. The officers were initially suspended but have since returned to work with the French police force.
The head of the internal police investigation team had earlier told the court: “I regret we weren’t called immediately. If we had been, I could have made efforts to secure the scene. We could also have heard the officers more rapidly.” She added: “Basic investigations weren’t done.”
Spanton waived her anonymity in interviews before the trial. She had claimed she was raped by three men and a third DNA sample was found on her clothing, but the third attacker was never identified.
A message Redouane sent to one of his colleagues was particularly incriminating: “Hurry up, she’s a swinger,” it read. The accused had deleted it from his phone, but it was found on the recipient’s mobile.
The officers have 10 days to appeal against their conviction and sentence.