National frameworks to address hate crime in France

This page provides information on the national frameworks to address hate crime in France. The information provided here should be viewed alongside data presented on France's hate crime report page.

Hate crime recording and data collection

When reported, all offences are given a criminal qualification code and label by police officers; each code and its label refer to a particular article of the penal code. In France, a definition of hate crime is provided in the criminal code. Depending on the type of offence, up to five bias motivations can be recorded: religion, racism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia.

Frontline police officers identify and record hate crimes based on the victim's perception and/or on objective facts and circumstances that indicate a bias motivation. Police officers use a generic form to record hate crimes. However, they are trained to record hate crimes in line with the nature of the damage suffered. Some fields in the form – notably the criminal qualification codes and labels – are computed into a national database that compiles statistics on hate crime.

The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for two data collection processes. All security forces are connected to a central registration system. Data on hate crimes can be extracted from this database using the criminal qualification code under which they have been recorded. Since 2008, data on anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim offences have also been manually collected from local field offices by central intelligence services. These data are shared and discussed with Jewish and Muslim civil society organizations.

 The Ministerial Statistical Department for Internal Security (SSMSI) within the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for producing reliable criminal statistics, and publishes studies related to hate crime statistics on its Interstats website. Every year in March, SSMSI publishes a study on "racist, xenophobic or anti-religious attacks" that include both administrative data and victimization survey data. SSMSI also contributes administrative data and victimization survey data to the annual report on racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH).

The Ministry of Justice collects data from across the judiciary. The registration of data is subject to a strict and rigorous quality assurance process based on a common codification called the "justice reference system". The process groups together all criminal offences and allows the data to be cross-referenced according to the number of cases (registered, prosecuted, sentenced), the type of motivation (homophobic, gender, racism, etc.), the type of offence and the type of criminal sanction. The Ministry's Department of Statistics and Studies (SDSE) centralizes and uses statistical data from the Cassiopée information system (where criminal proceedings are registered by prosecutors' offices) and final convictions entered in the criminal records. These data are published in the Annual Report on Racism, Antisemitism and Xenophobia prepared by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH).

A working group formed of the SSMSI, the SDSE and the Department of Criminal Affairs and Pardons (DACG) within the Ministry of Justice has met since 2015. The group's objectives are to improve the methodology and produce comparable data on specific issues, in particular hate crimes.

Since 2007, the French National Institute of Statistics (INSEE), the SSMSI (created in 2014) and the National Observatory of Crime and Criminal Justice (ONDRP, which existed until 2020) have conducted an annual large-scale crime victimization survey (CVS) among the general population. The survey provides information on insults, threats and physical assaults motivated by racism, anti-Semitism or xenophobia. Since 2018, the SSMSI has produced an annual statistical report which combines statistics recorded by the national police and gendarmerie with data gathered by the CVS. In 2022, a new questionnaire on the Experience and Feeling of Safety (VRS) has improved the collection of data on discriminatory phenomena. In December 2023, SSMSI will release a report that will capture data from the VRS survey.

Hate crime victim support

Specialized hate crime victim support is available in France. Victims of hate crime do not have a status different from that of other crime victims.

France relies on 187 victims support providers to provide support to victims of hate crimes committed with a particular bias. Some specialized support providers also co-operate directly with the state. Additionally, there is an agreement in place between the central offices working to combat cybercrimes and CSOs to address hate crimes committed online. Co-operation between the government and civil society is institutionalized, and the state runs an accreditation system for support providers to verify the quality of the support they provide.

Both general and specialized support providers offer a range of services to all victims of crime, including free legal, psychological and social assistance. Some victim support offices are located in police stations, courts or offices providing general legal and administrative support to the public. A telephone helpline is also available to all crime victims.

Individual needs assessments are carried out by the police at the earliest opportunity. The process takes into account the specific needs of hate crime victims, such as: limiting the number of victim interviews to prevent secondary victimization; ensuring that interviews are conducted by the same person and person of the same gender as the victim; and holding interviews in specially adapted premises. If necessary, an in-depth assessment can be made by a victim support provider, which may recommend specific protection measures to the police, the prosecution or the court. The assessment can become part of the case file and is updated during criminal proceedings.

Standards on sensitive and respectful treatment of victims by police are in place. Victims can complain about their treatment by law enforcement to the dedicated committees chaired by state representatives.

The police refer all victims of crime to the relevant support services by providing contact details to the victim. Dedicated police officers handle referrals in hate crime cases. Referrals to specialized support services can also be made by prosecutors when imposing special protection measures. There are specially appointed prosecutors dealing with hate crime cases. Representatives of support service providers, the law enforcement officer and criminal justice system employees receive training on how to interview victims of crime. Guidance on handling hate crime cases is available.

To encourage hate crime reporting and strengthen support to victims, the Central office for Combating Crimes against Humanity and Hate crimes (ICLCH) has worked to provide enhanced educational content that can be accessed via the "My safety" application. The aim of the content is to make it easier for victims to identify whether the acts in which they were targeted are likely to be classified as criminal offences.

Together with victims' associations, the OCLCH has also designed a guide for law enforcement officers on interviewing victims of hate crimes. The aim is to guide investigators in dealing with victims from the reception phase to the end of the hearing.

In criminal proceedings, hate crime victims are granted the same rights as all victims of crime. This includes access to the case file; the right to information and interpretation; access to a lawyer and to legal aid; and the ability to challenge decisions when they have the status of a civil party in the proceedings. Specialized lawyers are appointed by local bar associations to assist victims, provide them with legal representation and/or assist them in seeking compensation. CSOs dealing with victims of hate crime are also allowed to join the proceedings. In some instances, however, vulnerable victims have encountered difficulties in filing a complaint and being involved in judicial proceedings.

Compensation to victims of crime are handled by the Guarantee Fund for Victims, a public service available to victims of terrorism, common law offences and traffic accidents caused by uninsured or unknown drivers. Compensation to the victim may also be imposed on the offender as part of sentencing.

In April 2022, an online reporting platform was put in place to: (i) enable communication and information exchange between victims and witnesses of hate crime and the police or gendarmerie via an online chat function; (ii) inform the victims about their rights in criminal proceedings; (iii) direct the victims to relevant organizations providing assistance; (iv) facilitate access of victims and witnesses to the relevant police and gendarmerie units; and (v) report hate incidents to the relevant investigation services. The online service can be accessed anonymously.

Hate crime capacity building

Several initial training modules for police address the issue of hate crimes and relations with victims. The training also covers the skills of police officers on receiving a victim's complaint, such as active listening and building confidence. Police commissioners receive in-depth training in dealing with victims, including psychological aspects and contacts, the role of victim support associations (e.g., France Victimes), and new tools for filing a complaint electronically. In addition, as part of the criminal law curriculum, the issue of addressing racism and discrimination is addressed through the study of the many offences relating to "attacks on the person" as an aggravating circumstance. Since 2017, an initial training module for police officers has also focused on the role of CSOs in addressing hate crime. DILCRAH and CSOs such as LICRA and FLAG! are involved in the training module.

As part of the criminal law curriculum, the issue of combating racism and discrimination is addressed through a study of the many offences relating to "attacks on the person" as an aggravating circumstance. Hate crimes are also covered in regular police training sessions on ethics, receiving the public, identity checks on the public highway and management.

In most police stations (638 out of 663 as of 2021), a "reception" officer is appointed and also acts as a "racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination" officer, while departmental "victim support" correspondents are appointed as "LGBTQI+" officers. In addition, 680 networks of equality/diversity officers are responsible for implementing policies related to diversity and "professional equality between women and men" within the national police directorates and active services, in particular by carrying out dedicated communication and training initiatives. The implementation and results of these policies are regularly monitored by independent external auditors as part of the certification process by the French Standards Agency (AFNOR).

Since 2019, a practical guide on combating discrimination and harassment has also been distributed internally. The guide is produced by DILCRAH together with the Ministry of Justice and the Human Rights Defender, and supplemented by a guide on offences relating to discrimination and harassment.

Initial training for the national gendarmerie addresses the issue of hate crime in relation to professional ethics, in partnership with CSOs. Hate crimes are addressed as part of the gendarme's in-service training during sessions on the law applicable to acts of violence.

In addition, guidelines have been issued specifically on personalized assessment and the rights of and support to victims of hate crime, particularly vulnerable victims (NE no. 17672 GEND/DOE/SDPJ/BPJ of 2016). There are also guidelines on dealing with victims of hate crime based on sexual orientation and gender identity (NE no. 17500 of 17 May 2021).

The "Equality - Diversity" officers (a national officer, 35 co-ordinators and 248 local officers) are responsible for awareness-raising initiatives among police. In particular, 100 officers working on "anti-racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination" are appointed in each territory. They are responsible for organizing local awareness-raising initiatives. They are also supported by a network of 2,300 territorial prevention correspondents who implement the initiatives in co-operation with the police within the 99 family protection centres (Maisons de Protection des Familles), which have a specific focus on discrimination.

This work is further supported by an investigator's guide on "Sanctioning racist, anti-religious and anti-LGBTI discrimination and offences" (revised in 2020) and a methodological guide on "Hate offences" (published in 2020), which set out the techniques used to reduce the impact of police interviews on victims.

In September 2022, a methodological guide written by the OCLCH on "combating hate crimes" was updated and made accessible on investigators' computers and mobile phones via a dedicated app.

Since 2019, two training sessions per year have focusing specifically on hate crimes with the aim of creating a network of specifically trained investigators throughout France, under the guidance of DILCRAH. Police officers, gendarmes and magistrates who receiving the specialized training become hate crime officers within their respective departments. Suspended during the health crisis, the training resumed in 2022.

There are also specialized courses for law enforcement available, designed in partnership with civil society organizations. The FLAG! Association provides training on homophobia and transphobia in national police schools, under an agreement renewed in 2020 for three years, and awareness-raising activities for "victim support" correspondents and "reception" officers within the national police force. In 2021, a four-party agreement was signed between the ENSP in Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d'Or, the police training centre in Chassieu, the Maison d'Izieu - Mémorial des enfants juifs exterminés and the DILCRAH. The agreement focuses on raising awareness among day commissioners and officers at the ENSP during their initial training, and also covers student peacekeepers, assistant police officers and cadets.

As part of their initial training, judges and prosecutors, study violence and insults based on a victim's sexual orientation. The rights of migrants, and in particular difficulties encountered in asserting one's rights as a victim, are also addressed during this initial training period. Trainee judges (auditeurs de justice) are also made aware of various forms of violent radicalization (political and religious). Hate crimes are also addressed as part of the ongoing training offered to judges and prosecutors throughout several sessions.

Every court has an anti-discrimination unit and/or a magistrate responsible for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination. While the organization of units varies, , these units are generally made up of the referring magistrate, the specialized public prosecutor's delegate, the investigation departments, associations involved in combating discrimination and supporting victims, and representatives of other administrations concerned (e.g., the prefecture, national education, etc.). The local representative of the Human Rights Ombudsman and elected representatives may also be involved.

In addition, ENM Paris organizes an annual two-module, three-day seminar on the theme of "from discrimination to hatred, judging prejudice and hostility" with the participation not only of magistrates but also police officers and commissioners (since 2021), gendarmes and lawyers. As part of the Council of Europe's HELP project, the ENM also provides two e-learning courses on "Combating racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia" and "Hate crime and hate speech".