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French minor given life sentence over rape of 13 year old girl

media Agnès, 13, was murdered by a classmate in Chambon-sur-Lignon in 2011 Reuters/Charles Platiau

A French court has handed over a life sentence to a 19 year old, who was charged in the rape and murder of a 13 year old classmate in 2011. It is the first time a minor, at the time of the crime, has been sentenced to life imprisonment in France since 1989.

The grandparents of Agnès Marin were some of the first to exit the courtroom on Friday night, expressing their happy surprise at the judge’s verdict: “Justice has been served,” Agnès’s grandmother told the press.

After four hours of deliberation, the Juvenile court in Haute-Loire went further than the public prosecutor’s request of 30 years, and sentenced Matthieu to life in prison. It is the first time a minor, at the time of the crime, has received such a sentence since Patrick Dils in 1989 for a double murder. He was later acquitted.

Matthieu was 17 years old when he lured Agnès, then 13, into a forest near the international school they both attended in Chambon-sur-Lignon in the Haute-Loire region. There, police say Matthieu admitted to “killing, raping and burning” his classmate.

Included in Matthieu’s sentence was a charge of raping a 16 year old girl the year before, in the southern Gard region where he grew up.

Advocate General Jeanne-Marie Vermeulin said on Friday that Matthieu’s age should not be a reason for a lesser sentence, describing him as “extremely dangerous.” Vermeulin remained pessimistic about his chances for rehabilitation.

Agnès’s mother Paola said Matthieu, who sat through the trial with his head between his legs, looked “completely absent” during the proceedings and showed no sense of empathy over his crime.

However, Matthieu had not been judged a threat to society following the rape of the 16 year old in 2010. After receiving psychiatric assessments, the then-16 year old was considered capable of being reinserted and readapted to normal life.

Matthieu and his family moved to another region and after receiving refusals from several schools, he was finally admitted to the Cévenol international school – specialised in giving problem students a “second chance.”

It is here where Matthieu met Agnès, which led to the macabre events one year later.

The Cévénol school knew Matthieu had a criminal past but claim they were not aware of the details, nor of the 2010 rape charge, when he was first registered.

Following her daughter’s death, Agnès’s mother told the press: “This is a pointless death that could have been avoided. Error is human but we paid a very high price.”

On Saturday, Matthieu's lawyers announced they would appeal the judge's verdict, claiming his age should be considered, as well as the fact that his identity as a minor had been revealed publicly – violating French law.

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