Police from elite French unit found guilty in gang rape of Canadian tourist

Two French police officers have each been sentenced to seven years in prison after they were found guilty of gang-raping a Canadian tourist at Paris police headquarters nearly five years ago. They have 10 days to appeal the verdict.

The two officers were accused of raping Emily Spanton at the prestigious station at 36 Quai des Orfevres after meeting her at a nearby Irish pub when they were off duty in April 2014. Spanton has agreed to reveal her identity in order to speak publicly about the case.

The officers invited the 39-year-old woman for a night tour of the station after a night of flirting and heavy drinking, according to court documents. The victim claimed she was forced to drink whisky, perform oral sex, and was raped several times before she left the building an hour-and-a-half later.

PHOTOS

Paris police headquarters

View of the 36 Quai des Orfevres police headquarters in Paris on April 26, 2014. (AP / Christophe Ena)

36 Quai des Orfevres

This Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 file picture shows a street sign at the 36 Quai des Orfevres police headquarters in Paris, France. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

Shortly after, she found a female police officer and reported the crime.

Both former officers have denied any wrongdoing. They claim the woman consented to sexual interactions that night.

“This judgement is not fair,” defence lawyer Sebastien Shapira told CTV News.

On Thursday, the two officers addressed the jury. Both of them were crying as they spoke, CTV News’ Daniele Hamamdjian reported from the Paris courthouse on Thursday.

“I’m not a rapist. I’m not a rapist,” one of them told the jury.

“You have my life in your hands,” another said.

The accused acknowledged they shouldn’t have brought Spanton back to the police station that night,” Hamamdjian said.

After a two-and-half week-long trial and nearly eight hours of deliberation, the jury found the two men guilty. Following the verdict, Spanton quietly cried as she sat a few metres away from the officers.

One of the officers also cried and shook his head in disbelief after the verdict was read, Hamamdjian said.

The two men were handcuffed and led out of the courtroom following the sentencing. They will spend the night in prison before they make another scheduled appearance on Friday.

The courtroom was filled with off-duty officers with some voicing their support to the accused men.

“Be courageous,” someone in the audience shouted to them.

Throughout the trial, lawyers for the accused raised questions about the woman’s lifestyle, her behaviour with men, and pointed out inconsistencies in her story, Hamamdjian said.

“A woman who’s been raped doesn’t have to justify her personal life,” Sophie Obadia, one of Spanton’s lawyers, told CTV News.

“In France now, it’s not important the private life of a victim,” Mario Stasi, another of Spanton’s lawyers, added. “What’s important is what happened, if she agreed or disagreed to have sexual relations.”

Yesterday, one of the lawyers said they had never seen an alleged rape victim be accused of lying so much in their 18-year career.

When Hamamdjian asked one of the defence lawyers what Spanton’s motivation would be for lying, they responded only by repeating “she’s a liar.”

“She was portrayed as a liar; she was not in fact a liar,” Obadia added.

The woman’s lawyers framed their argument as a trial about consent, saying their client arrived at police headquarters “happy and jovial” and left in a complete state of shock, Hamamdjian said.

According to court documents, the officers’ DNA was found on the woman’s underwear and a medical exam revealed she had bruises on several parts of her body and a gynecological lesion.

Experts determined Spanton was drunk at the time of the rapes with between 2.6 and 3.3 grams of alcohol per litre of blood in her body.

There was intense media attention given to the trial because the accused were members of an elite police unit that was responsible for storming the Bataclan theatre on the night of the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015.

As a result, the victim’s rape claims were initially dismissed because they were viewed as heroes at the time, Hamamdjian said.

Although the case was initially thrown out, the Paris prosecutor and Spanton won their appeal to have it brought to trial.

Shapira, the defence lawyer, declined to discuss his team’s approach to the case following the verdict.

“I don’t want to discuss about her,” he said. “I want to keep my energy for this men that are sleeping in prison.”