• 60'
  • Author : Chloé Vienne
  • 26-09-2021
  • Master : 3098


It’s the justice system for petty disputes, flashes of anger that turn out badly. Cases where “nobody got killed”, as they say, but which poison the lives of the French. In rural areas, the Tribunaux de Proximité (Local Courts) are the last bastion of this everyday justice system. Often sitting alone, the judges have to juggle between domestic affairs, disputes between neighbours or over guardianships… During several months we were able to set up our cameras in the courtrooms and capture the intimacy of this justice that concerns us all.

Thibaut Nicoulau, 29, is straight out of magistrate’s school. The Presidency of the Péronne court is his first position. 80,000 people depend on it for justice. “It’s not easy to get around in that part of the department, there’s not much transport. But there are still citizens who live there, people who demand justice. And we have a duty to respond to that demand.” Once a month, he presides over a special hearing: the Criminal Court. Before him passes a line of men and women of all ages and all backgrounds who have committed or been victims of petty crimes. A neighbourhood dispute that ended in an outburst of violence between two women will set him a real problem… At his side: Danielle Doyen, head clerk of the court. In a career spanning 30 years she has seen judges come and go. “Thibault is the same age as my son. That tells you everything actually. And then we only have one judge, so we pamper him!” Together on a regular basis, they reach out to those who are no longer heard. During a trip devoted to guardianship cases, her support proves precious for the young judge.

In France, cases of “petty crimes” represent more than half of legal activities. They are the ones that clog up the courts. So, to avoid their being “shelved” for lack of time, the legal system has a joker up its sleeve: Delegates of the Prosecutor. When retirement came around, Guy Gobert, a former police inspector, decided to resume service. Theft of candy or fly-tipping… he travels up and down the region delivering the decisions taken by the Public Prosecutor to those before the court. A role of “mouthpiece” not always taken seriously… “I hope I’m not preaching in the desert. My role is to put a stop to petty crime and avoid people finding themselves back in court again.” We accompanied him on his visits to Château-Thierry. There’s no High Court here. He receives those seeking justice in a small room inside a former railway station…

3” heels and 20 years at the bar. Maître Dussaut pleads all sorts of cases. In Péronne, a town of 7,500 residents, there are few who have not had some dealings with her, either as client, or adversary… What takes up most of her time: it’s family law. The majority of her clients have never set foot in a courtroom. So, she coaches them before a hearing, as if before a boxing match. “I prepare them to be observant, clear. To state things calmly. Because every hearing is a combat. And it’s not always easy to get through it.” We followed one of these cases: that of a desperate mother fighting for her daughter’s well-being.

A tangle of struggles, hopes and doubts. We plunge into the everyday lives of those working to bring justice everywhere.

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