French Republic v A Firefighter (2014) H&FLR 2015-11

French Republic v A Firefighter (2014) H&FLR 2015-11

Amiens Criminal Court

11 December 2014

Coram: Not identified.

Appearing for the Prosecution: Not identified.
Appearing for the Defendant: Not identified.

Catchwords: France – criminal law – emergency services – road accident – manslaughter – emergency

Facts: The accused was a firefighter with 33 years experience and, in particular, 10 years experience driving under emergency conditions.  On 6 October 2011 at around 10:00pm he was driving a tanker in a built-up area to the scene of a gas leak.  It was agreed that the driver had been complying with all applicable safety regulations when he passed through a red light with flashing lights and sirens activated.  Despite this, the truck collided with a scooter which entered the intersection pursuant to a green light.  The scooter driver was killed in the collision.  The driver was charged with “homicide involontaire” (≈ manslaughter).

The accused’s evidence was that he had slowed the truck, that he had not needed to speed as he had not yet been given the precise address of the gas leak, and that the scooter had entered the intersection at high speed.

Held: Convicting the driver, that the Court was not convinced that the gas leak was so urgent as to require driving under emergency conditions and disregarding the red light.

Judgment

No written judgment is available.  This report has been prepared based on accounts in the newspapers Le Figaro of 22 December 2014, Courrier Picard of 6 November 2014 and 21 December 2014, Libération of 22 December 2014, an undated report in Pompier Magazine, and the account of television channel France3 of 22 December 2014.

Note: the accused has announced his intention to appeal.

Comment: This case has obvious relevance from a fitness perspective, noting that the scooter driver could equally have been a runner, cyclist or equestrian.  It should be noted that the court’s rationale – that it was able to second-guess the driver’s assessment of the situation, that it had done so and found it wanting – has been deduced second-hand from a comment made on the case by the union representing firefighters.  That said, it is the only variable which would explain the driver’s conviction in light of the other evidence.

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