two dogs in court to “count emotions”

Two “legal aid dogs” accompanied the victims and the accused throughout the trial in Millas, which had a heavy emotional charge.

This is the first in France. Two dogs are helping the victims and the accused in the Millas fatal collision trial that opened last Monday at the Marseilles court. The driver of the school bus that collided with the train in 2017 was tried for homicide and involuntary injuries. Six children died in the accident, 17 were injured.

At the beginning of the week, the accused was introduced to the black Labrador who will assist him throughout the trial to help him escape his speech and manage his emotions. When she cried, Rancho, who was sitting next to her, rested his head on her lap.

Rancho will assist the accused in the Millas trial throughout the hearings.
Rancho will assist the accused in the Millas trial throughout the hearings. © Nicolas TUCAT / AFP

“This technique is a support tool and cannot be considered a gadget”, it is there to “allow you to bear the emotional burden of this test”, warned at the start of the proceedings the president of Marseille criminal court. , Celine Ballerini .

“Free speech, building trust”

In the back of the room, Ouchi, a golden retriever, is in the process of throwing victims. On Tuesday, he joined the two teenage survivors in their testimony. “He also helped two mothers of dead children who knew their last moments in the trial,” reports Aurore Bourcereau, director of the association of France Victims de la Nièvre, who went especially with the animal.

Ouchi the golden retriever accompanies the victims and their loved ones in this emotional ordeal.
Ouchi the golden retriever accompanies the victims and their loved ones in this emotional ordeal. © Nicolas TUCAT / AFP

This “legal assistance dog” system has been developed in North America. In France, the device began to prove itself in investigations and recently arrived in court. This is the first time that it has also been made available to a defendant.

“This animal mediation liberates speech, builds trust. It is an external tool of reassurance that lowers stress, heart rate and therefore a facilitator of testimony”, estimates Jérôme Moreau, vice-president of France Victims federation.

Labradors and golden retrievers are known for their calmness, their sense of empathy and contact with people. Half a dozen of them are currently being trained in France, including Rancho, which is attached to the court of Nîmes and is managed by the firefighters of Gard or Ouchi, which has ties to Nièvre. The training costs about 17,000 euros, according to Florian Auffret, research and development officer of the Handi’chiens association.

“The dog took me to his bubble”

The chief warrant officer Jérôme Lapp, one of Rancho’s referents, recalled a trial in June in Marseille where a teenager had to testify before his theater teacher, tried for sexual abuse. “The president has a phobia of dogs but he wanted to test him before the trial of Millas and I was amazed at what the little one said that he had not said before. He said to me: ‘ The dog brought me to his bubble. She felt like he was talking to her,” the firefighter explained. After two and a half hours of listening, Rancho was tired: “He came to see me and he started snoring in the middle of the hearing”.

In Lyon, LOL came specially from Cahors for an investigation. He “brought peace to the victims and was able to free the floor during very trying hearings”, described the president of the judicial court Michaël Janas who requested that his court be equipped with a dog.

“Listening is not an easy​​​​​​ way to survive… When the dog sees that I am a bit stressed, he makes contact, clings to me, bends his head, or touches my hand. “, report for his part that Eric (assumed name), 39, is one of the 30 declared victims of a man accused of raping and assaulting minors.

The prosecutor of Lyon, Nicolas Jacquet plans to invite the animal in different stages, “in the area of ​​investigative services, in the offices of judges or in public hearings”.

Amber Lepoivre with AFP BFMTV journalist

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