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October 27, 2009

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Frenchman on trial for the rape of young boy

A FRENCHMAN with multiple pedophilia convictions went on trial yesterday over the kidnap and rape of a five-year-old boy, a case that has prompted some in government to consider castration for repeat sex offenders.

Francis Evrard, 63, has spent half of his life behind bars for sexually abusing children. In August 2007, just days after his release from prison, he kidnapped a boy in the northern town of Roubaix, locked him in a garage, drugged him and raped him.

The case caused such outrage in French public opinion that the government rushed out new legislation in response in 2008 that allows authorities to keep criminals in jail after the end of their term if they are deemed to remain a threat to society.

That was criticized by lawyers and human rights activists who said it challenged fundamental principles of justice, but Evrard is now being cited as a reason for the government to take new measures against repeat sex offenders.

Evrard wrote to French President Nicolas Sarkozy this month asking for his testicles to be surgically removed to free him from his pedophile impulses. Surgical castration is illegal in France and the president has not commented publicly on Evrard's request.

The father of his 5-year-old victim denounced Evrard's letter as a stunt aimed at obtaining a more lenient sentence, pointing out that Evrard had made the request two years after his crime but days before his trial.

France, along with a number of other European countries including Sweden and Denmark, already allows "chemical castration" or the use of drugs to lower the sex drive of offenders who agree to it.

But Evrard's letter and his trial, as well as a separate case in September in which a woman was abducted and strangled by a recently released rapist, have prompted senior ministers to advocate beefing up possible punishments against sex offenders.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the government was considering forcing some of them to undergo chemical castration.


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