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Heavy drinking and the disposition of intimate partner violence cases in French courts


Claudine Pérez-Diaz PhD, Researcher, Marie-Sylvie Huré BA, Research Assistant. Dr Claudine Pérez-Diaz, CESAMES, 45 rue des Saints-Pères, F-75006 Paris, France. Tel: +33 01 42 81 24 27; Fax: +33 01 42 86 38 76; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims.In 1992, France passed a specific penal law on intimate partner violence. The present study explores the functioning of this new law by examining the characteristics of perpetrators in cases that were tried rather than dismissed. Additionally, the characteristics of heavy drinkers were compared with those of non-heavy drinkers.

Design and Methods.We analysed all cases of intimate partner violence processed in the years 1999–2000 by a major court of the Paris metropolitan area. Data were collected on 223 perpetrators (all 166 tried perpetrators and 10% of the 570 perpetrators whose case was dismissed) and how cases were handled institutionally. Logistic regression was used to identify perpetrator characteristics significantly associated with being tried (vs. dismissed) and being a heavy drinker.

Results.Being tried was significantly more likely if the perpetrator had inflicted an injury, engaged in prior aggression and was a heavy drinker. Heavy drinking perpetrators were significantly more likely than non-heavy drinkers to have been drinking before the act. They were less likely to be under 40, more likely to be French, part of a stable couple and to have engaged in various types of prior aggression.

Discussion and Conclusions.In 2000, heavy drinking was associated with increased risk of being tried and with drinking before the act. Heavy drinkers are more likely to have committed all forms of aggression, but only verbal aggression is significant. In 2000, judges gave heavy drinkers harsher sentences and a 2007 law sanctioned them even more severely. Our results suggest that treatment focused on problem drinking could be a helpful response—perhaps more so than harsher sentences—to intimate partner violence.[Pérez-Diaz C, Huré M-S. Heavy drinking and the disposition of intimate partner violence cases in French courts. Drug Alcohol Rev 2011;30:490–495]