Transport, schools, beaches, parks … From Monday, mayors will be on the front line of the deployment of the deconfinement plan presented Thursday by the government. In the event of hiccups, their political and criminal responsibility will be engaged. No legal net at the moment.
Almost unanimously, local elected officials welcomed the decision of Edouard Philippe to rely on them to carry out his deconfinement plan. The region, the department, the commune are the right level to manage transport, to judge the advisability of opening a public place, of authorizing a market. But now some local elected officials are rebelling, confronted with the two most delicate equations: schools and public transport. So, more than 300 mayors of Île-de-France denounced, about the reopening of schools, an “untenable and unrealistic calendar”. In general, the mayors, who for the most part belong to the opposition of the right or the left, accuse the government of not having presented a sufficiently coherent plan, of having fallen behind in all areas, and complain of not having additional means. “Premiers de corvée”, laments the various left mayor of Montpelier, Philippe Saurel. Not false.
But mayors above all put forward the risk of seeing their criminal responsibility incurred if a teacher, parent or student were contaminated through school. They criticize the government for delegating to them the “legal, political and moral” responsibility for the reopening of schools. It is true that since the beginning of the pandemic, complaints and remedies have multiplied. In the Senate, the leader LR Bruno Retailleau was alarmed by the absence, in the bill, of a device ensuring the legal protection of local elected representatives.
Alert on the responsibility of local elected representatives
Senators had also amended the text on Monday to legally protect local officials whether they are mayors, business leaders or school directors. An amendment that was accepted by the government. Instead, the text was amended by the Legislative Committee in the Assembly, in particular by LREM parliamentarians to take into account “the state of scientific knowledge at the time of the facts”. For deputy speaker LR Damien Abad, the “red line” has been crossed, warning the government against “a system of general amnesty” which would open “a boulevard in Le Pen”.
The risk of prosecution remains for the time being. But not enough to jeopardize the deconfinement plan! The issue was not even raised during his presentation this Thursday, May 7. Between 1995 and 2014, the Territorial Life Risks Observatory (created by SMACL insurance companies) counted nearly 130 accused local elected officials for involuntary injuries or homicides. It’s little considering the number of local elected officials. Over ten years. And since the early 2000s, their number has decreased significantly thanks to the Fauchon law of July 10, 2000, which limited the conditions under which the indirect perpetrator of an unintentional crime can be convicted. Since this law, only two cases have made it possible to engage the criminal responsibility of elected officials: to have “manifestly deliberately violated a particular obligation of prudence” or “committed a gross negligence”. The judges should be able to appreciate.