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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Ten convicted in France sex case
Thierry Delay (left) and his wife Myriam
Thierry Delay (left) and his wife Myriam abused their own children
A court in northern France has convicted 10 members of a paedophile ring after a trial that gripped France.

The court heard allegations of sexual abuse, torture and bestiality involving children from three to 18 in the town of Outreau between 1995 and 2000.

The ringleaders, Thierry Delay and his wife Myriam - the parents of four of the victims - were sentenced to 20 and 15 years in jail for child rape.

Another couple and a priest were also among those convicted.

The Delays' neighbours in the northern town of Outreau, David Delplanque and Aurelie Grenon, received sentences of six and four years on similar charges, while worker-priest Dominique Wiel was given seven years.

Others living nearby also received prison or suspended sentences while seven defendants were acquitted by the judge, sitting in the town of Saint Omer.

Confusing case

All the accused have spent months in prison awaiting trial and have been banned from seeing their own children.

4 May - trial starts
19 May - Myriam Delay says she has wrongly accused others
24 May - she retracts her testimony and re-accuses those she had exonerated
2 July - 10 convicted and seven acquitted

On Friday, French Justice Minister Dominique Perben expressed his "regrets" and "compassion" towards those who had been imprisoned before their acquittal on Thursday, according to AFP.

He told a news conference that it should not happen again and announced the launch of a working group which will explore possible reform, principally on the process of investigation, preventive detentions and use of experts.

Thierry Delay was found guilty of raping nine children, carrying out sex attacks on six, renting out his four children and corrupting 12 others.

His wife was sentenced for the rapes of seven children, sex attacks on 10, pimping her four own and corrupting 11 other children.

In May, the trial was thrown into disarray after the two couples who had admitted to abusing the children told the court they lied when they implicated the other 13 people - who were then expected to be acquitted.

Myriam Delay then changed her version again and re-accused those she had exonerated.

"My children did not lie. I was there and I saw it all," she said.

The children had given supporting evidence, naming other individuals allegedly involved, but much of it was found to be inconsistent and the children did not always repeat their accusations.

Case history

The case came to the attention of prosecutors in December 2000, when social services alerted them to the possible sexual abuse committed by the unemployed Delays against their own four children.

The children, once they had been placed in foster care, told investigators they had been fondled, raped, coerced into performing sex acts and forced to watch pornographic films.

In 2001, other members of the alleged ring were placed under investigation.

Twenty people were initially arrested in connection with the alleged paedophile network.

One suspect committed suicide while in detention, while another was declared unfit for trial.

Child rape trial opens in France
04 May 04  |  Americas
Country profile: France
21 Apr 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: France
30 Mar 04  |  Country profiles


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