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An information packet for British nationals who have been arrested or detained in France

Table of Contents

1. Chapter 1: Key points

1.1 Overview

If you are a British national, and are arrested or detained in another country, consular staff will do what they can to help you, but they cannot interfere with the local justice system, get you out of jail, or pay for services such as a lawyer. Information about who we can help, including the circumstances in which we can assist dual nationals, is available at: Support for British nationals abroad. You can also request a paper copy from consular staff.

This detention information pack is designed to give you, and your family and friends, information about the local system in France and who can help. Consular staff can provide a printed copy to those in prison or in custody. We welcome feedback to help us improve the information we can provide to others

Contacting us

If you are arrested or detained in another country:

  • the authorities should ask whether you want them to contact the British Consulate (and must do so if you want them to)

  • Even if they do not ask, you can make the request yourself, and should do so, particularly if you are charged with a serious offence or need any kind of assistance

  • Friends or family can also contact the local British Consulate or the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on +44 (0)20 7008 5000

In some countries, the authorities might notify the British Consulate even if you do not want anyone to know that you have been arrested. This is because there may be an agreement in place with the British Government which requires a mandatory notification to be made.

Who we are

Consular staff work in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in the UK, and in British embassies, high commissions and consulates overseas.

In France, the country is divided into three consular districts.

British Embassy in Paris – Consular Section

Responsible for the northern regions of France, Paris and the French overseas territories

Address: 35 Rue du Faubourg St Honoré

75008 Paris


Telephone: +33 (0) 1 44 51 31 00

Web form: www.gov.uk/contact-consulate-paris

British Consulate Bordeaux

Responsible for the southwest of France

Address: 14 rue Montesquieu

30001 Bordeaux


Telephone: +33 (0) 5 57 22 21 10

Web form: www.gov.uk/contact-consulate-bordeaux

British Consulate Marseille

Responsible for the southeast of France, Monaco and Corsica

Address: Les Docks de Marseille - La Joliette

Atrium 10.3 1st floor

13002 Marseille


Telephone: +33 (0) 4 91 15 72 10

Web form: www.gov.uk/contact-consulate-marseille

Our working hours are from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (local time). You can also contact us by phone 24/7 for help or advice from anywhere in the world by calling the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office on +44 (0)20 7008 5000.

What we can do

The FCDO can offer you impartial and non-judgemental help. Once notified of your arrest or detention, consular staff will aim to contact you as soon as possible so that we can assess how we can help you. We then aim to provide assistance according to your individual circumstances and local conditions: our priority is to provide assistance to those British nationals overseas that need our help the most.

In France, arrest notifications by the authorities to the consulate normally take place within 24 hours and only if you have asked for the consulate to be informed.

The French authorities must inform the consulate when a British national is detained in prison. These notifications are usually done in writing by the court. However, we often learn of detentions directly through family, friends or the prison social worker before we receive the written notification.

Once we are notified, we aim to contact you as soon as possible.

We can also:

  • provide a list of local English-speaking lawyers and interpreters

  • provide general information about the country, detention conditions, and the local legal system (including if legal aid is available)

  • provide general information about the local prison or remand system, including visiting arrangements, mail and censorship, privileges, and welfare services

  • keep in regular contact with you, either by visiting or by telephone/letter. The frequency of contact will depend on local conditions and your personal circumstances

  • tell the police or prison doctor, with your permission, about any medical or dental problems including medication

  • put you, or your family, in touch with a prisoners’ welfare charity called Prisoners Abroad

  • help take up, in some circumstances, complaints with the police or prison authorities about ill treatment, personal safety, or discrimination, if you are not treated in line with internationally recognised standards

  • help to transfer money to you from your friends or family. In places where phone or postal services are not available we can also try to pass on messages and deliver letters to the prison (but generally we cannot arrange for delivery directly to you)

  • help you apply for a transfer to a prison in the UK, in some circumstances

What we cannot do

  • get you out of prison or detention

  • help you get special treatment because you are British

  • offer legal advice, start legal proceedings or investigate a crime

  • pay for any costs because you have been arrested

  • forward you packages sent by friends or family

  • prevent authorities from deporting you after release

1.2 First steps

Informing family members

If you want us to, we can tell your family or friends that you have been detained and can provide them with information about how to contact you in prison or detention. With your consent, we can also keep them updated on your wellbeing.

If you are not sure about informing your family, we can help you consider the impact that not doing so might have. For example, it may cause them distress if they do not know where you are or cannot contact you. It can also be a disadvantage to you if you need someone to send you money or act on your behalf while you are detained.

Informing the UK police

If you are accused of certain serious offences, such as sexual assault or drug trafficking, we are obliged to share information about your arrest with the UK police. It is therefore possible that information about this may appear if a Criminal Records Bureau check were carried out by a prospective employer. There may be other circumstances in which information about you may need to be shared by ourselves or authorities in France.

Although we cannot give legal advice, start legal proceedings, or investigate a crime, we can offer basic information about the local legal system, including whether a legal aid scheme is available. We can give you a list of local interpreters and a list of local English-speaking lawyers. You will want to consider the benefits of local legal representation and to discuss all the costs beforehand with the legal representative. In no circumstances can we pay your legal or interpretation costs.

Consular assistance: fair treatment

We cannot get you out of prison or detention, nor can we get special treatment for you because you are British. However, if you are not treated in line with internationally accepted standards, we will consider whether to approach local authorities. This may include if your trial does not follow internationally recognised standards for fair trial or is unreasonably delayed compared to local cases.

Other organisations that can provide assistance

We can put you, or your family, in touch with Prisoners Abroad, a UK charity which supports British citizens detained overseas and their families.

2. Chapter 2: Detention conditions in France

2.1 Visits: friends and family

Who can visit and how to arrange visits

You should consult FCDO travel advice before you travel to France for the latest information on safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

All visitors, including minors, must apply in writing for a visit permit (un permis de visite). The following list of supporting documents are usually required (this list is not exhaustive):

  • 2 recent passport-size photographs

  • copy of passport

  • proof of address (e.g. a utility bill)

  • proof relationship (e.g. a copy of a marriage / birth certificate). Partners should also provide proof of this (e.g. a joint bank account or shared residence or any other means). Others may also apply for a permit in the same manner but should enclose a letter explaining the reason for the request for a visit.

  • a letter from the prisoner would also be helpful

  • a self-addressed stamped envelope for the permit to be sent back (postage stamp only required if applying from within France)

Please note:

  • requests can be refused for even the closest members of the family if it is considered not to be in the interest of the judicial investigation

  • permits issued during the remand period remain valid after sentencing

  • it is not necessary to re-apply for a visit permit if a prisoner is transferred to another prison within France.

Who to address the request to depends on the prisoner’s status:

Remand prisoners (prévenu):

Visitors must apply for a visit permit by writing to the Investigating Judge (Juge d’Instruction) in charge of the case.

After the Investigating Judge has finished their investigation but before a trial has taken place, visitors must apply for a visit permit by writing to the Public Prosecutor (Procureur de la République) at the court dealing with the case.

Sentenced prisoners (condamné):

Appeal period

During the 10 day appeal period following sentencing, visitors must apply for a visit permit by writing to the Public Prosecutor (Procureur de la République) at the court at which the trial took place.

Appealing sentence

If there is an appeal, visitors must apply for a visit permit by writing to the Public Prosecutor (Procureur Général) at the Court of Appeal.

Fully sentenced prisoners:

If the prisoner is fully sentenced and all appeal procedures have been exhausted, visitors must apply for a visit permit by writing to the prison director (Directeur).

Visiting times

Visiting days and times differ from prison to prison. Most prisons allow three visits a week for prisoners on remand and at least one visit per week for prisoners fully sentenced. Visits normally last between 30 to 45 mins. Some prisons allow visitors travelling from overseas to group two visits into one (depending on availability) and this should be requested in advance by both the prisoner and the visitor. The prison authorities should provide full details regarding their visit procedure.

Booking a visit at the prison

Once the visitor has obtained a visit permit, they can book a visit at the prison by either calling the visits booking line (Service Parloir) or if available at a machine (borne) onsite. The number of visitors allowed varies from prison to prison. The UK charity, Prisoners Abroad can help to book visits if assistance is required. Private lawyers will also generally assist with these arrangements.

To avoid disappointment, visitors should never make travel arrangements until they have confirmation from the prison that their permit has been issued and that their visit is confirmed.

Prison visitors

In some prisons there are volunteers who visit prisoners to offer support. Your prison social worker (CPIP) can provide you with further information if this is something of interest to you.

What to expect when you visit

Visitors should arrive at the prison in advance to go through the security checks in time. They will need to show photographic ID such as a passport or driver’s licence and their visit permit. They will be required to place bags and objects (including mobile phones and money) in a locker. A one euro coin maybe required to use the locker.

All visitors will have to walk through a metal detector and may be subjected to a rub down search if the alarm is sounded. If you have had a surgical metal implant (for example, a pin, plate with screws, pacemaker or insulin pump) remember to take a medical certificate to show to the guard.

Depending on the prison, visits take place in either a communal room or a booth (un parloir) under surveillance. There is generally no separation unless this has been specifically requested beforehand.

Visitors can normally buy snacks and drinks from vending machines which are operated by tokens (jeton). These can be purchased beforehand at the visitor welcome centre.

At most prisons you can find a visitor welcome centre (Associations de maisons d’accueil des familles et proches de personnes détenues) which is usually located within close proximity of the prison. Volunteers are on hand to offer practical advice and support and there are kitchen and toilet facilities to use.

What you can take on your visit

Visitors are usually allowed to bring you clothes, shoes, books, games, writing paper, envelopes, religious books and documents relating to your family’s activities and parenting (this list is not exhaustive). The items will be given to you once they have been checked by the guards.

Prohibited items include, tobacco, drinks or any food products, magazines, medication and toiletries. The list of authorised and prohibited items may vary from prison to prison, so it is advisable to check beforehand.

Visits: consular staff

As soon as we learn you are in prison, we will write to you and ask you to complete and return an information sheet confirming if you would like a visit from a consular member of staff.

Our interest is essentially to ensure that you are in good health and that you suffer no discrimination and, where possible, to provide some reassurance about your wellbeing to relatives or friends who may not be able to visit you themselves. We cannot discuss or comment on anything concerning your trial or legal proceedings.

If you are on remand, we will usually try to visit you on a yearly basis and then make a final visit if you wish, should you receive a prison sentence.

You can write to us at any time on matters of concern, but if it is urgent if may be quicker to ask the prison authorities to contact us on your behalf. Our contact details are provided in the Overview section of this guide.

Emergency trips outside of prison

In the event a relative is terminally ill or has died, an emergency visit outside the prison (une autorisation de sortie sous escorte) may be granted by the judge. This is not an automatic right, and the consulate cannot intervene. Should the need arise, contact your prison social worker for advice. Please note, it is unlikely that you would be allowed to leave French territory.

2.2 Police custody and initial arrival at prison

Arriving at the police station: your basic rights

In France, there are three main forces who have the authority to detain you; the national police (Police National), the national gendarmerie (La Gendarmerie) and customs (La Douane).

On arrival at the police station, you should be informed in a language that you understand of:

  • the duration and possibility of prolongation of your arrest

  • the charges against you, where, when and the reason for your arrest

  • the right to remain silent, give a statement or to answer questions

  • your right to see a doctor

  • the right to have one person informed of your arrest (family member, friend or employer). Should the investigating magistrate decide that this might compromise the investigation or cause a risk to life the Public Prosecutor can delay this action

  • the right to inform the British Consulate although consular staff will not be able to speak to you or visit you at this stage

  • the right to legal support from a self-appointed lawyer or duty lawyer

  • the right to have an interpreter

Police custody (Garde à vue) is initially for 24 hours. The Public Prosecutor can request extensions of this period up to 96 or 144 hours depending on the alleged offence. In the case of minors in custody please contact consular staff for guidance as the rules are different.

At the end of the police custody, you will either be released, or taken to court for further proceedings.

Appearing at court

At the court you will be presented to the Public Prosecutor. They will decide whether to either; remand you in custody pending further investigation or send you to court for a fast-track hearing (comparution immediate) or release you pending a hearing at a later date. At court you will have the support of a duty or self-appointed lawyer and an interpreter if required.

Read more information about the French judicial system in that section of this guide.

Initial arrival at the prison

If remanded in custody or sentenced, you will be transferred to a prison. On arrival you will be interviewed by a prison clerk (le greffe) and asked to give personal details; including your full name, date of birth, nationality, marital status, address and profession. You will have a body search and your personal belongings will be checked and prohibited items removed. Items of value, including personal papers, mobile phones, and your British passport will be logged and retained by the prison. These items will be handed back to you on your release. You may retain and wear your wedding ring, watch or religious objects in the prison. Some items may be confiscated by the court as part of the investigation or sentencing.

Your photograph and fingerprints will be taken, and you will be assigned a prisoner number (numéro d’écrou) which should be used for all correspondence and money transfers.

You will also be seen by the prison medical team and screened for tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B & C. Screening is optional and the results will be confidential.

This is your opportunity to mention any personal healthcare issues and explain any medication needs. You will also see the prison social worker on duty. You have the right to make one national phone call on arrival to inform your next of kin. With your permission, the prison social services can inform your family directly or through the British Consulate if needed.

You will have a short meeting with a member of the prison management. On arrival you will be given kit with clean bedding, toiletry essentials and placed in an arrival cell.

Please note that by law French prisons and courts are obliged to notify the British Consulate of the detention of a British national. We may therefore receive notification of your arrest and detention, even if you did not agree to this.

2.3 Prison: conditions and daily life

Some prisons in France were built in the 19th century and conditions can vary from one to another. Overcrowding can be a problem and, in some cases, an extra mattress is added to a cell to accommodate an extra person. The number of prisoners to each cell entirely depends on the size of the cell and the number of prisoners at the establishment. Some prisons only accommodate female or male prisoners, while others will accommodate both, but have separate units for men and women.

If you experience serious harassment, threats or violence you should report this to the British Consulate as soon as possible. Also see the section of this guide on “How can I make a complaint about mistreatment?”


Whilst on remand or if you have been sentenced to less than one year, you may be detained at a remand centre (maisons d’arrêt). For prisoners sentenced to more than one year, you may be detained at a detention centre (centre de detention) or a central prison (maison centrale).

The prison is not obliged to grant you a single cell and you will most likely share a cell with one or more other prisoners. All cells have a window and are equipped with either a single bed or bunk beds, table, chair, washbasin and a toilet. You can request to have a fridge and a television in your cell which could incur a rental charge and you can purchase a radio from the prison shop (cantine). If you wish to change cell, you should ask or write to the warden in charge of your cellblock (chef de bâtiment) and explain the reason why.

Food and diet

You will be served three free meals a day to eat in your cell (breakfast, lunch and dinner). You should inform the prison authorities if you have a special dietary requirement due to health or religion reasons. If you wish to supplement your diet, you will need funds to purchase additional food from the prison shop (cantine). You should have access to drinking water in your cell.

In some prisons during the Christmas period, you may receive a parcel (colis de Noel) from family/friends. There are restrictions on the weight of the parcel (usually max 5kg) and items allowed and you should check the rules beforehand.


Every cell is equipped with running water and a toilet. Some cells have a shower but if your cell does not, you will be allowed to use the communal showers at least three times per week. You will be given a kit containing personal hygiene products upon arrival and you can purchase further products from the prison shop. You are responsible for keeping your cell clean and tidy.

Work and study

You can request to work but it is not compulsory. It may be necessary for some jobs to be able to speak French. You should request permission to work by writing to the warden in charge of your cellblock (chef de bâtiment). There is often a shortage of jobs and a waiting list. Examples of work opportunities include work around the prison itself (in kitchens and laundries) production jobs (envelope-stuffing) and other jobs such as printing, carpentry, clothing and metalwork etc.

How much you are paid will be calculated according to the job you do, and you will be informed before you start the job. Deductions will be made from your pay for French National insurance contributions, for your release (pécule de liberation) and to compensate civil parties (les parties civiles). Prison working hours may not exceed the hours worked outside the prison in the sector of activity concerned.

Education is provided in all establishments. Courses usually include French as a foreign language. A full list of study opportunities can be provided by the prison staff.

Contact and languages

Learning French will help you to understand what is going on, to communicate your needs and to ease the boredom and mental isolation of prison life. Most prisons offer French language courses. There is the possibility to request local language materials through the post from Prisoners Abroad (including language textbooks and dictionaries), but you should check first if you have permission to receive them with your prison social worker. Each prison has a library service (bibliothèque) which usually has a selection of books in English. Speak to your prison social worker about how you can apply for access.

You may be able to rent a television. Some English channels might be available, however there is no guarantee that you will be able to view them.


In prison, cultural, sports and leisure activities will usually be proposed. You can request the list of activities proposed from your prison social worker or the warden in charge of your cellblock (chef de bâtiment) and sign up for an activity.

You will be permitted to spend at least one hour per day outside in the promenade. It is an opportunity to walk around and talk with other prisoners. Smoking cigarettes is allowed.


Metropolitan France experiences a temperate climate, which varies depending on which part of the country you are in. Summers are typically warm and hotter in the south. Winters are generally quite chilly, but snowfall is rare outside of the mountainous regions of the Alps and Pyrenees. In the overseas territories, the climate is tropical, and temperatures rarely dip below 20°C.

You will be expected to provide your own clothing where possible. Appropriate clothing will be provided by the prison authorities if you are recognised as being without resources.


You will be allowed to practice your faith whilst in custody and participate in the religious services offered by the chaplain of the prison. You can request a visit from a chaplain of your faith by writing to the prison director and can correspond with the chaplain by letter. You may keep and receive objects and books required to practice your faith.

Rules and regulations (including drugs)

The prison’s rules and regulations (le règlement intérieur) provide you with the main rules, violations and disciplinary action. A copy can be found in the library and this information is explained in English in the Living in Detention - Handbook for New Inmates (see annexes).

You and your cell can be searched at any time. Drugs, alcohol and mobile phones are strictly forbidden in French prisons and if they are found in your possession (or those visiting you) you will face disciplinary action. This might include losing your place on a course or your position if you are working, lead to you being placed in the disciplinary zone as well as remission being revoked. Visits could also be suspended, and it is important to note that your behaviour whilst in detention is taken into consideration if you apply for early release.

Most prisons offer specific support to inmates with a drug, alcohol or tobacco addictions. This should be directly discussed with the prison doctor for further support.

2.4 Prison: access to help and services

Receiving money

There are two ways in which you may be able to receive financial assistance while in prison.

  • private Funds: Deposited to you by your family or friends. See below for instructions on how to send funds.

  • Prisoners Abroad: Depending on where you are detained, if your family can’t support you financially, Prisoners Abroad may be able to send you a small grant every quarter for essentials.

The British Government does not provide financial assistance to prisoners.

Private funds

While the FCDO does not provide financial assistance to prisoners, we may be able, within certain limits, to send you money from your family or friends. Please note that you cannot have cash sent to you in the post.

The FCDO operates a “Prison Comfort” system for money transfers from family and friends to prisoners. Please ask your family to get in touch with the FCDO or the British Consulate in order to arrange this. We are unable to receive payment by credit or debit card, or by cash.

Alternatively, it is possible to send a bank transfer directly to any French prison and we highly recommend this method. Although the sender may incur a fee for international transfers you will receive the money a lot quicker. The prison authorities will usually provide you with an internal information sheet with instructions on how to set up the transfer which you can send to your family. It should include the SWIFT and IBAN codes for the prison. The British Consulate or UK charity, Prisoners Abroad, can usually give your family this information if required. The person sending the money must reference all transfers with your prisoner number, surname and first name. Failure to do so will result in the prison rejecting the transfer. We recommend that the person checks with their bank the charges for international bank transfers which can be quite high.

Certain prisons require that you have prior authorisation from the judge or prison director to be able to receive funds. You should check this with the prison to avoid the rejection of your transfer.

On receipt of funds, the prison will open an account to enable you to purchase items from the prison shop (cantine). The account is called a ‘compte nominatif individuel’ and is divided into the following three parts:

  1. the ‘part disponible’ is money available to purchase items from the prison shop. You are allowed to receive no more than 200 euros per month for this purpose

  2. the ‘pécule liberation’ is a percentage of money received in excess of the above permitted monthly amount and money deducted from your salary (if you are working) which is kept for you until your release. If this account exceeds a certain amount the prison will open a savings account for you

  3. the ‘indemnisation des parties civiles’ is a percentage of money received in excess of the above permitted amount which, if not used to compensate civil parties is given to you on your on release

It is forbidden to post money to a prison or to have money, cheque books or bank cards in your cell.

If you do not receive money and you are unable to work, the prison authorities may consider you as destitute (indigent). Under certain conditions, the prison authorities may allocate destitute prisoners a monthly grant of 20 euros.

Prisoners Abroad

In addition, Prisoners Abroad, a UK charity, may be able to assist you with funding for prison essentials and some medical care if you are not receiving regular funding from other sources. See the ‘Additional information’ section of this guide.

Medical and dental treatment

While you are in detention, France is responsible for ensuring your basic medical needs are met. Medical services in France are of a high standard and you should have access to all treatment offered by the French health authority. Many prisons have their own medical units staffed by health professionals (UCSA). Please note that as for French residents, there are waiting lists for medical appointments and treatment.

You should have had a medical examination on arrival at the prison. From then on if you need medical attention and wish to see the doctor (docteur/médecin), dentist (dentiste), or psychiatrist (psychiatre) you will need to make a written application to the prison medical unit (UCSA), giving the reason why. A simple diagram may help you to indicate your problem.

While you remain in prison in France you will be entitled to full French state health cover. Please note that not all state healthcare in France is free. You may have to pay some of the costs of certain non-emergency treatments.

With your permission, we can make sure that any medical or dental problems you might have are brought to the attention of the police or prison doctor. We can also contact your GP in the UK, if the police or prison doctor requests previous medical records.

Letters and parcels

There is usually no limit to the number of letters you may send or receive. You should be able to buy stamps, writing paper and envelopes from the prison shop. You should quote your full name and prisoner number on all correspondence. If you are on remand, the court may screen your correspondence, including letters between you and the British Consulate. Screening can cause delays as the court may decide to have your letters translated. There are very limited exceptions to screening which include letters between you and your lawyer and these letters should clearly be marked ‘Avocat’.

You may receive photographs but not identity photographs.

Some prisons will allow you to receive a parcel. Before family or friends attempt to send a parcel, it is essential that you check the prison rules and regulations. Where parcels are permitted, in most cases you will need to obtain prior permission to receive one either from the investigating judge if you are on remand, or the prison director if you are fully sentenced.

Please note that the British Consulate is not able to forward mail on your behalf or deposit parcels at prison.

Since 1 January 2022, there have been changes to how people can send and receive items from abroad and they could be liable to customs clearance in France. This does not apply to items from Northern Ireland to the EU. When sending parcels from the UK to the EU, the sender will need to complete the customs form at the UK Post Office and should make sure that the GIFT option is ticked in the content section of the form. All gifts under €45 are VAT exempt. For gifts over €45, any charges will be collected from the recipient on delivery. It is therefore advisable for people to send you items as gifts of a value less than €45 as you would have difficulty paying the custom charges from prison.

Further information is available on the Royal Mail, GOV.UK and the French customs (douanes).

Telephone calls

In France you can make both domestic and international phone calls from prison under certain conditions. If you are on remand, you must request permission from the investigating judge to call the number(s) of your choice. If you are fully sentenced, you must request permission from the prison director. In both cases, a copy of the person’s ID, phone bill (landline) and proof of relationship will usually be required along with your written request.

Some prisons have cells equipped with phones and other prisons have phones which are accessible in the communal areas. Once you have credited your prison telephone account you will be given an access code and will be charged for each call. You will not be able to make calls unless you have credit on your telephone account.

All calls can be monitored and recorded. There are very limited exceptions to this rule which include calls to your lawyer. It is not possible to receive calls.

Mobile phones are strictly forbidden in French prisons, and you could face sanctions if a mobile phone is found in your cell or in your possession.

Making a complaint about mistreatment

If you have been mistreated, please inform consular staff as soon as it is safe for you to do so. We will then do our best to visit you to check on your welfare, discuss the allegations, and inform you of any local complaints’ procedures and supportive organisations. With your permission, and where appropriate, we will consider approaching the local authorities if you have not been treated in line with internationally accepted standards. If you have been mistreated, please try to see a doctor, obtain a medical report and if possible, photos of the injuries you have sustained.

You should inform a member of the prison staff; this could be for example a warden or prison social worker. They will inform the prison director who will decide what protection measures should be put in place.

You can also send a letter in a sealed envelope to:

  • the Public Prosecutor (Procureur de la République) of your local court to make a formal complaint (deposer plainte)

  • the Défenseur des droits which is the French equivalent of the Ombudsman. The address is, 3 place de Fontenoy, 75007 Paris. Please see your prison notice board or ask your prison social worker for the contact details for your local delegate

  • the Contrôleur général des lieux de privation de liberté is an independent public body in charge to control all the places where people are deprived of liberty and to prevent any violation of their fundamental rights. The address is, B.P. 10301, 75921 Paris Cedex 19

3. Chapter 3: The French judicial system

3.1 Overview

Is the system the same as in the UK?

  • the French and British criminal justice systems are very different and have different actors

  • the French criminal justice system is derived from the Roman civil law system, which is inquisitorial. This means that the judges and prosecutors take active control of the investigation to find out what happened

  • prosecutors and investigating judges will lead criminal investigations

  • the police authorities have the power to identify and arrest perpetrators of criminal offences, but the public prosecutor will decide what type of criminal investigation will be required, and whether to prosecute individuals

  • an investigating judge (juge d’instruction) will be appointed to investigate the most serious criminal investigations. Prosecutors and investigating judges are called ‘magistrats’ and will gather evidence both in favour of the prosecution and in favour of the defence to make a determination about an individual’s involvement in criminality, before the case is sent to trial

  • the criminal courts have jurisdiction to rule on whether the accused are guilty and then sentence them to criminal sanctions

  • in France, victims can be represented by lawyers during the criminal investigation and the trial. They are party to the proceedings

The FCDO cannot interfere with the judicial system. We cannot ask for your case to be judged more quickly just because you are British or ask the authorities to waive any penalties.

3.2 First steps

What should happen after you are arrested

If you are arrested in France, you will be taken into custody by the French authorities and the Public Prosecutor (Procureur) will be informed. It is possible that you will spend custody in an airport holding cell or local police station. You can be held up to 24 hours from the moment that you are arrested, this can be extended by the Public Prosecutor or the Investigating judge (Juge d’instruction) depending on the crime up to 72 hours.

At the moment of your arrest you should be made aware of your rights; one of them is to inform a family member or employer of your arrest, to see a doctor and have access to a lawyer (your own or one on duty provided by the French court). You should inform the authorities if you wish the British Consulate to be informed of your arrest.

The authorities might want to take a statement from you. You have the right to be assisted by an interpreter. You will be informed of the crime that you are suspected to have committed, as well as the date and place.

At the end of your custody, you will either be released without charge or presented to the Public Prosecutor at the local court. The Public Prosecutor will decide whether to remand you in custody pending investigations or a trial, or send you to court for an immediate hearing (comparution immediate), or release you pending a court hearing at a later date (you will be notified of the date). You have the right to an interpreter and a lawyer (either your own or a duty lawyer).

If you have any questions on the legal aspects of your arrest, contact your lawyer. See for a list of local English-speaking lawyers.

How long you can be remanded in custody

If you are the subject of a deportation order (Obligation de Quitter le Territoire Français) or do not have the right to remain in France, you can be held in a retention centre (Centre de rétention administrative) for up to 90 days. This could be extended for certain criminal offences including terrorism. The French authorities will arrange your return to the UK. If you do not have a valid passport, you may need to apply for an Emergency Travel Document. The French authorities will usually liaise directly with the relevant British Consulate.

You have the right to legal representation and can contact a lawyer. Some associations provide legal advice in the retention centres.

You can ask to see a doctor at the l’unité médicale. They will be responsible for your healthcare during retention.

Access to mobile phones without cameras are permitted and there are no restrictions on who you can contact including the Consulate. Retention centres usually have a shared pay phone and phone cards can be purchased. You can receive visits from friends or family and during the allocated visiting hours prescribed by the retention centre.

Staff from the Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (OfII) can provide you with information and help to prepare your return, for example administrative tasks, collecting belongings and clothing needs. You can ask them to assess your vulnerability. Concerns regarding individuals’ compatibility with detention may be raised with the French authorities when there is medical evidence, for example, a doctors report.

Further information in English is explained on the French government’s website Service Public including the appeals process. You can also request a paper copy from consular staff.

After you are charged

When investigations are complete the case will be presented before the Public Prosecutor (Procureur) who will take the decision whether to prosecute. If you are already on remand, a judge, (juge des libertés et détention) will rule whether you should remain in custody pending the trial or be released. If you are remanded in custody you will be taken to (or taken back to) prison to await your trial. A trial date will be set by the court and you will be notified of the date.

Immediate trial: Under French law in certain cases, a case can be brought to court the same, or next working, day, known as ‘comparution immediate’, and a sentence given immediately. You are entitled to reject this procedure and ask for an adjournment to prepare your defence. You would normally be guided by your lawyer (or the duty lawyer representing you) concerning this decision and you should also have the right to an interpreter.


French penal procedure may allow the person charged with an offence or under investigation, to remain at liberty (liberté provisoire e.g, remanded on bail). However, because of the difficulty of guaranteeing that the accused will present themselves for further investigation and trial if they are not a resident of France, foreigners charged with an offence are almost invariably placed on remand. Applications for bail are also unlikely to be accepted in the case of a person who faces serious charges.

You may be able to obtain bail against a large cash deposit and/or on the condition of residing in France at your own cost pending the investigation and trial. Your passport may be kept by the court during this period. For further information on this, you should consult your lawyer. If you obtain bail the court may lay down certain bail conditions such as reporting to the local police.

What happens if my situation changes whilst on bail and I can no longer support myself?

It is possible for you, or your lawyer, to request a modification or annulment of your bail conditions at any time. You, or your lawyer should make this request to the investigating judge or the competent court depending on your judicial situation.

The FCDO cannot transfer bail funds.

If you wish to hire a private lawyer, see our list of English-speaking lawyers. Prisoners Abroad can also supply general (non-country specific) information on legal aid, court proceedings and can advise on appointing a lawyer.

Normally, if you hire a private lawyer they will ask for a fee advance for their estimated legal fees before they will take your case on. The British Consulate cannot pay legal fees or guarantee to a lawyer that you will pay them.

If you are unable to pay for a lawyer, you may be entitled to free legal-aid (avocat désigné d’office). Should you wish to apply, you should write to the President of the local law society (Bâtonnier) whose address you can obtain from the prison. The prison social workers are often able to help with this. You may specify that you would like an English-speaking lawyer although this is not guaranteed under the legal-aid system.

Where a prisoner has initially been represented by a legal-aid lawyer and has appealed against a decision of the Tribunal de Grande Instance, it will be necessary to re-apply for another legal aid lawyer through the Court of Appeal.

Under French criminal procedures, a legal-aid lawyer is usually present at interviews which you may have with the investigating judge, but is not obliged to visit you at the prison. All communication is done in writing. In many cases they will work from the judicial file and in liaison with the Investigating judge. The presence of your lawyer is, however, obligatory at court hearings. Should you be allocated a legal aid lawyer and then nominate a private lawyer, the legal aid lawyer has the right to charge lawyer’s fees for any services rendered. A private lawyer is unable to act on your behalf until this matter is settled.

Lawyers’ fees in France are not regulated. The lawyer sets the cost of the services they charge their clients. To determine the lawyer’s fees, several criteria are used: the client’s financial situation, the difficulty of the case, the costs, the lawyer’s reputation, or the time spent on the case.

Operating costs such as travel and admin charges can sometimes be added to the fee.

An agreement must be signed between the client and the lawyer at the beginning of the collaboration to fix:

  • the amount of the lawyer’s remuneration

  • the various additional costs and expenses envisaged (except for emergencies or unexpected events)


If you are being held on remand, on your trial day you will be taken to the court where your case is being handled. There will be a judge in charge of your case along with the Public Prosecutor (Procureur) and your lawyer.

The French judicial system does not have recourse to juries except for those cases heard at the Assizes Court/ Criminal Trial Court (Cour d’Assises). Trials in French courts are public unless decided otherwise. Trials with no public are known as ‘huit clos’. A trial can take place over a number of days. During your trial, you have the right to remain silent and the right to be assisted by an interpreter if you do not speak or understand French.

Your lawyer will provide you with legal assistance and will present your case in court based on the evidence gathered by the Public Prosecutor or by investigating judge. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the order of your trial in court and you can also find out more information on trials in France in English on the French government’s website Service Public.

Decisions are usually given on the same day or can be given on a later date arranged by the court president.

If you are on bail or were released pending your trial date you should contact your lawyer concerning your attendance at the trial and any consequences of not doing so.


If you are found guilty, the court can announce the following sentences:

  • prison sentence or community service

  • and/or a fine

  • and/or an additional penalty (confiscation of object, restraining order etc)

Your actual sentence will depend on the seriousness of the crime and level of involvement. In France, sentences vary greatly depending on the type of offence which is set out by French law. Sentences can include a temporary or permanent ban from French territory. Your lawyer will advise you about this.


Following sentencing at a trial, an appeal can be lodged either by the defendant or the state Public Prosecutor within 10 working days. For drug related crimes, Customs may also appeal. The General Prosecutor (Procureur Général) however has a period of up to 2 months from the day of the sentencing in which to lodge an appeal. No appeal against any part of the sentence can be lodged after the expiry of this period.

To lodge an appeal, you must do so in writing either through the prison clerk (Greffe) or your lawyer. Your prison social worker will be able to give you information about the procedure. If you lodge an appeal, you may be transferred to a remand centre that is closest to the relevant Court of Appeal. You should be aware that the appeal process is slow and can sometimes lead to the appellant’s release being delayed until the appeal is decided. In such cases, a lawyer’s opinion of the case is strongly recommended before proceeding.

Following any re-trial (appeal) if you or your lawyer believes that a mistake has been made on law or procedure, there is a period of 5 (calendar) days in which an appeal can be made to the Supreme Court of Appeal (Cour de Cassation) which sits in Paris. The facts of the case itself are not reconsidered and any further evidence given to the courts will be ignored.

3.4 Reaching the end of your sentence

Reduction of sentence (remission)

If you were incarcerated after 1 January 2023:

The rules on how remission is calculated changed from 1 January 2023 and will effect only prisoners incarcerated after this date. To be eligible for remission you must have demonstrated good behaviour and an effort at rehabilitation – for example, respecting the rules and regulations of the prison, preparation of a diploma or vocational training, efforts to compensate victim.

To apply you must write to the judge responsible for the execution of sentences (le juge de l’application des peines – JAP) at the nearest high court (Tribunal de Grande Instance). Your prison social worker should be able to help you to do this. Please note, that even if you do not apply, the judge responsible for the execution of sentences must review your eligibility for remission at least once a year.

The amount of remission which can be granted, is determined by the length of your sentence and the length of time you are incarcerated. As well as considering your behaviour, the judge responsible for the execution of sentences takes into account the nature of the offence that you committed and other factors.

For sentences less than 1 year, remission can be granted on the following scale:

  • up to 14 days per month of incarceration

For sentences greater than 1 year, remission can be granted on the following scale:

  • up to 6 months per year of incarceration.

The remission can be withdrawn in full or partially the following year in cases of bad behaviour. You can appeal against the decision of the judge to refuse or withdraw remission within 24 hours of receiving the notification. The Public Prosecutor may also appeal against the decision of the judge to grant remission.

Further information is explained in English on the French government’s website Service Public. You can also request a paper copy from consular staff.

If you were incarcerated before 1 January 2023:

An automatic remission of sentence is applied on the following scale: Three months for the first year, two months for subsequent years and seven days per month for any subsequent months. When a sentence becomes definitive, the prison will provide you with a date of release taking this remission into account.

A further three months remission per year can be granted by the magistrate (juge d’application des peines - JAP) who sits on the board responsible for conditional release at the nearest high court (Tribunal de Grande Instance) to where you are detained. To benefit from this you must have shown, apart from good conduct, an effort at rehabilitation, e.g., course of study or training course with examination, etc.

The prison can apply to the magistrate for remission to be revoked, for example, for bad behaviour. In this case, the revocation is three months maximum per year of detention.

Early release

It is possible to apply for conditional release (this is the equivalent of parole in the United Kingdom) if you have served at least half of your sentence, taking into consideration any remission that has been granted.

If you are serving a sentence which specifies a minimum period of detention (periode de sureté) you will not be considered for conditional release until this time has been served. In cases where a foreign national is subject to a deportation or extradition order, conditional release can be decided without the prisoner’s consent.

Since 1 January 2023, the French authorities have introduced a new conditional release measure for prisoners serving short sentences, known in French as liberation sous contrainte de plein droit. If you are serving a sentence of 2 years, or less, and have not received a sentence reduction or been granted another early release measure, you may be eligible for a right to automatic conditional release 3 months before your end of sentence date. Your eligibility is subject to certain criteria, which include:

  • confirmation that you have accommodation in place for your release

  • the seriousness of your offence

  • If you have had a disciplinary measure since being in prison

Generally, you should automatically be informed by the prison authorities of the date you are eligible to apply for the conditional release. The prison authorities provide an application form, and the prison social worker can help you complete the form which should be submitted to the Juge d’Application des Peines (JAP). Though local procedures might differ slightly from prison to prison, cases are heard by the JAP who sits at the local high court (Tribunal de Grande Instance).

Factors that are taken into account include the seriousness of the case, family ties, good behaviour, studies carried out, examinations passed, payment of customs fines and payment of compensation to victims. Supporting documents showing that you have accommodation and a job upon release are generally required. Conditional release is often refused if fines, including customs fines, have not been settled.

If you are serving a sentence of less than 4 years or have less than 4 years of your sentence remaining, conditional release can be applied for if you have parental rights of a minor under the age of ten and who normally lives with you. This, however, does not apply to those convicted of a crime or offence committed against a minor.

You have the right to be represented by a lawyer for any conditional release hearing. You must inform the JAP of the name of your chosen lawyer or write a letter to the lawyer nominating them and which they will produce to the JAP. If you do not have a lawyer, you must inform the JAP that you wish for one to be nominated by the President of the Bar (Bâtonnier) on your behalf.

You or your lawyer may present a written statement in support of your request. You may also, assisted by your lawyer, make a statement in person before the judge. Please note that if you are making a statement in person and need an interpreter, it is important to ask for one before the date of the hearing. Your prison social worker can also advise you on the process.

Once the JAP pronounces the decision, the Public Prosecutor has the right to appeal against it within 10 calendar days of receiving notification.

Should the Public Prosecutor appeal against a decision of the JAP to grant conditional release, the appeal must be heard by the court within two months.

The sentencing administration court (Tribunal d’Application des Peines) decides on conditional release for prisoners sentenced to ten years or more.

If conditional release is not granted the case is reconsidered normally once a year thereafter. This can be earlier if further evidence/information is provided.

Decisions of the JAP and the sentencing administration court for conditional release are enforceable even in the case of appeal by the court unless the court has lodged an appeal within 24 hours of it being notified. Conditional release can be revoked in the event that the conditions imposed are not respected.

Clemency or pardon

Pardon and clemency (graces) are rarely given and can only be granted by the French President.

Financial penalties

When sentenced you may have also been given a fine in addition to the time you are expected to serve in prison. A sentence for a drugs-related offence invariably includes a customs fine that is calculated in direct relation to the estimated value of the drugs involved. Customs fines may also be imposed for fraud offences, smuggling of tobacco, cigarettes and other “highly taxed goods”.

Non-payment of the fine can result in an additional period of detention known in French as ‘contrainte judiciaire’. The length of a contrainte judiciaire varies from twenty days to one year and is determined by the amount of the fine imposed. A contrainte judiciaire can only commence when the prison sentence has been completed. However, a contrainte judiciaire cannot be imposed if the fine is for less than €2,000 or if the person was under 18 years of age at the time of the offence or 65 years or over at the time of the sentence.

It is sometimes possible to negotiate a reduction of the fine, but the customs authorities are not obliged to accept anything less than the full amount and may wait until the prisoner has commenced the period of contrainte judiciaire before they will enter into negotiations.

Article 752 of the Penal Code (Code de Procédure Pénale) states that a contrainte judiciaire cannot be imposed on sentenced persons who can justify their insolvency. Applications for insolvency should be made to the local High Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance). It is possible to apply for a legal aid lawyer to present a case and an application should be made using the procedures explained above. However, many courts consider that prisoners sentenced in drugs cases have benefited from secret income that prohibits the establishment of insolvency. If an application for insolvency is refused, the prisoner is obliged to serve their period of contrainte judiciaire.

Consular staff cannot intervene in the negotiations with Customs. Negotiations should be carried out by yourself or your legal representative. Your prison social worker may help by giving advice regarding the procedure, with composing a letter in French and following up a response.

Transfer to another prison within France

If you have been sentenced and an appeal has been lodged, you may be transferred to a remand centre (Maison d’arrêt) that is closest to the relevant Court of Appeal.

If you are sentenced to more than one year imprisonment, and all appeal periods have expired, you may be transferred from a remand centre to a detention centre (Centre de detention). You can ask to be sent to a specific detention centre which is nearer to your family to facilitate visits.

A detention centre has generally better living conditions, such as a single cell, greater access to work and study programmes and availability of telephones. If this transfer is not automatic, you can request it. For more information regarding a prison transfer, you should speak to your prison social worker.

Transfer to a prison in the UK

There is a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) between the UK and France.

PTAs enable prisoners to be transferred in order to serve the remainder of their sentence in their own country. This allows British nationals to be closer to family, where they can also benefit from courses designed to prepare for a person’s release from prison.

The offence you were convicted of must also be a criminal offence in the part of the UK you wish to be transferred to: England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The authorities in the sentencing country may refuse your request. You should be aware that even if the sentencing state agrees to your transfer, the UK authorities may refuse your request. Reasons for this might include if you have not lived in the UK for a number of years and if you have no close family residents there.

Should you wish to transfer to the UK, you should discuss this with your prison social worker and write to inform the prison clerk’s office (greffe) who will start the process and transfer the request to the Ministry of Justice in Paris via the local Court of Appeal. It is helpful if you inform the British Consulate of your request so that its progress can be monitored. Please note that the transfer process can be very slow and bureaucratic taking many months to complete.

To transfer, you must:

  • be a British citizen or have close family ties with the UK (normally through permanent residence in the UK)

  • not be awaiting trial

  • have exhausted all appeals against your conviction and/or the length of your sentence; or have waived your right to an appeal

  • have at least 6 months of your sentence left to serve when you apply for transfer

  • have no outstanding fines or other non-custodial penalties

To find out more about transfers to the UK please see arrested or detained abroad information. If you would like us to send you a paper copy, please write to let us know.

Release and deportation

When you reach the end of a sentence in France and if you have no ban on re-entry, or deportation order against you, on the day of your release you will be allowed to make your own way home, or be met at the prison by family or friends.

If you have a ban on re-entry to France or are considered a danger to society, you may be deported by the French authorities and escorted back to the UK. On the day of your release, you will be handed over to French police officers who will escort you to the UK usually by ferry or plane. It can happen that you are put in administrative detention awaiting travel to be arranged.

It is important to have a valid British passport and it will be required if you are returning to the UK. Consular staff can advise you on how you can apply for a replacement passport while you are serving your sentence. If you do not have enough time to apply for a passport before you travel, you may be eligible to apply for an Emergency Travel Document which is a document valid for one journey only. Consular staff can advise you further.

Retention centre

If you are the subject of a deportation order (Obligation de Quitter le Territoire Français) or do not have the right to remain in France, you can be held in a retention centre (Centre de rétention administrative) for up to 90 days. This could be extended for certain criminal offences including terrorism. The French authorities will arrange your return to the UK. If you do not have a valid passport, you may need to apply for an Emergency Travel Document. The French authorities will usually liaise directly with the relevant British Consulate.

You have the right to legal representation and can contact a lawyer. Some associations provide legal advice in the retention centres.

You can ask to see a doctor at the l’unité médicale. They will be responsible for your healthcare during retention.

Access to mobile phones without cameras are permitted and there are no restrictions on who you can contact including the Consulate. Retention Centres usually have a shared pay phone and phone cards can be purchased. You can receive visits from friends or family and during the allocated visiting hours prescribed by the retention centre.

Staff from the Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (OfII) can provide you with information and help to prepare your return, for example administrative tasks, collecting belongings and clothing needs. You can ask them to assess your vulnerability. Concerns regarding individuals’ compatibility with detention may be raised with the French authorities when there is medical evidence, such as a doctors report.

Further information in English is explained on the French government’s website Service Public including the appeals process. You can also request a paper copy from consular staff.

Will long-term residents be able to stay in the country at the end of their sentence?

To be able to remain in France after your release you must have a valid French residency card (un titre de séjour). The French authorities can revoke your French residency card or refuse to issue or renew it for several reasons. These include receiving a conviction or being considered a danger to public order. If your residency card is revoked or you do not have one, you may be given an order to leave French territory and may be deported by the French authorities on your release.

When you are released, all personal belongings and money on your personal prison account will be given back to you.

Sometimes people find that they face difficulties adjusting to life in the UK once they have left prison. You may find yourself ready for life on the outside but not prepared for living in the UK. You may not have lived in the UK before and have no connections there, or perhaps you have lost touch with friends and family. You may want to talk to another person who understands what you have been through, to help you consider what to do next

If you are registered with Prisoners Abroad, you can arrange an appointment with their Resettlement Team when you first arrive back in UK. They can help with for advice, temporary luggage store, make essential phone calls or use a computer. If you have no belongings Prisoners Abroad may be able to help with basic toiletries and finding suitable clothing. If you know your release date in advance you should tell the Prisoner and Family Team when you are likely to arrive and what help you think you might need. If you have no money and nowhere to go, Prisoners Abroad’s Resettlement Service can help with:

  • advice on finding emergency accommodation in the London area

  • claiming welfare benefits, including emergency benefit payments if you are destitute

  • making appointments with doctors and dentists

  • putting you in touch with local agencies if you are not returning to the London area

Later on you may want advice on housing, looking for work, applying for training or getting counselling. Prisoners Abroad can refer you to the right agency.

Other sources of practical help back in the UK are:

The Salvation Army

UK Helpline +44 (0)20 7367 4888

Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm, or contact your local Salvation Army branch

The Prison Fellowship

UK Helpline +44 (0)20 7799 2500

Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Your criminal record in the UK

We will not normally pass on information about your case to a third party without your consent. However, if you’re arrested for certain serious offences, such as child sex abuse or drugs crimes, our staff must tell other relevant UK authorities. It is possible that information about this may appear if a Criminal Records Bureau check were carried out by a prospective employer.

4. Chapter 4: Additional information

4.1 Additional Information


La CIMADE provides legal support to foreigners, assisting them in accessing their rights on immigration issues. You can ask your prison social worker or Consular staff for local contact details.

4.2 Prisoners Abroad

Since 1978 the charity Prisoners Abroad has offered practical support and advice to British citizens imprisoned abroad. It is the only UK charity providing this service. It is available to all, whether guilty or innocent, convicted or awaiting charge or trial. Prisoners Abroad supports your health and welfare during your imprisonment. It can also provide support on your return to the UK, through their resettlement service (if you have registered whilst in prison). They can also provide support and advice to your family when you are in prison. To access any services, you must first register with Prisoners Abroad by signing and returning their authorisation form.

Once you seek help from Prisoners Abroad, the Prisoner & Family Support Service will be your point of contact for advice and information. The type of assistance they can offer varies from country to country, but generally they can provide you with information, in English, on:

  • your rights as a prisoner and issues that may affect you such as health or transfer to the UK

  • obtaining magazines, newspapers, books and the regular Prisoners Abroad newsletter

  • learning the language of your country of imprisonment

  • translation of documents

  • grants for food if you are in a developing country and don’t have funds from other sources

  • grants for essential medicines and toiletries if you don’t have funds from other sources

  • preparing for release

  • help for your loved ones, including information, family support groups and, in a few cases, assistance with the cost of visiting

  • freepost envelopes to help you stay in touch with others

Prisoners Abroad

UK Helpline +44 (0)20 7561 6820 or 0808 172 0098

Mondays to Fridays 9:30am to 4:30pm (UK time)

89 – 93 Fonthill Road

London N4 3JH


4.3 Glossary of terms

English French
Police La police
Public prosecutor Le Procureur de la République
Investigating judge Le Juge d’Instruction
Judge Le juge
Court Le Tribunal / la Cour
High court Tribunal de Grande Instance
Court of appeal Cour d’Appel
Supreme court Cour de Cassation
Law Le droit
Lawyer L’avocat
Court-appointed lawyer L’avocat d’office
Legal-aid Aide juridictionnelle
I would like to make a request for legal aid J’aimerais faire une demande d’aide juridictionnelle
Interpreter L’interprète
Witness Le témoin
Statement La déposition
Court date La date du procès
Courtroom La salle de tribunal
Fast track hearing Comparution immediate
Charge L’accusation
Bail La caution
Sentenced Condamné
Verdict Le verdict
Proof La preuve
Defence La défence
Defendant L’accusé
Crime Le délit / le crime
Trial Le procès
Innocent Innocent
To plead guilty Plaider coupable
To plead not guilty Plaider non coupable
To be found guilty etre reconnu coupable
Acquitted Acquitté
Detention La détention
Sentence La peine
To appeal Faire appel
Release date La date de fin de peine
Mid sentence Mi peine
Reduction of sentence / remission Une remise de peine / réduction de peine
Early release / conditional release Un aménagement de peine
Imprisonment L’incarcération
Good behaviour La bonne conduite
Criminal record Le cassier judicaire

Key phrases – English into French

Months Mois
January janvier
February février
March mars
April avril
May mai
June juin
July juillet
August août
September septembre
October octobre
November novembre
December décembre
Days Jours
Monday lundi
Tuesday mardi
Wednesday mercredi
Thursday jeudi
Friday vendredi
Saturday samedi
Sunday dimanche
1 un 11 onze 21 vingt-et-un 40 quarante
2 deaux 12 douze 22 vingt-deux 50 cinquante
3 trois 13 treize 23 vingt-trois 60 soixante
4 quatre 14 quatorze 24 vingt-quatre 70 soixante-dix
5 cinq 15 quinze 25 vingt-cinq 80 quatre-vingt
6 six 16 seize 26 vingt-six 90 quatre-vingt-dix
7 sept 17 dix-sept 27 vingt-sept 100 cent
8 huit 18 dix-huit 28 vingt-huit 200 deux cents
9 neuf 19 dix-neuf 29 vingt-neuf 300 trois cents
10 dix 20 vingt 30 trente 1000 mille
Hello Bonjour / salut
Good evening Bonsoir
Goodbye Au revoir
Good night Bonne nuit
Please S’il vous plaît
Thank you Merci
You are welcome De rien
Yes / no Oui / non
Excuse me Excusez-moi
Sorry Désolé
Comment ça va How are you ?
Today Aujourd’hui
Tommorow Demain
Yesterday Hier
Next week La semaine prochaine
Next month Le mois prochain
I Understand Je comprends
I do not understand Je ne comprends pas
I don’t know Je ne sais pas
What is this? Qu’est-ce que c’est?
What should I do? Que devrais-je faire?
Can you help me? Pouvez-vous m’aider?
Thank you for your help Merci de votre aide
To make a request Faire une demande
Prison Director Le Directeur de la prison
Prison social worker L’assistant(e) social(e) / CPIP
Guard/Warder Le surveillant de prison
How do I book a family visit? Comment dois-je faire pour réserver un parloir?
Visit permit Un permis de visite
Visit Un parloir
Prisoner number Le numéro d’écrou
Prison cell La cellule
Can you tell me how long my sentence is? Pouvez-vous me dire quelle est la durée de ma peine ?
Can you tell me the date my sentence finishes? Pouvez-vous me dire à quelle date se termine ma peine ?
What must I do to get transferred to another prison? Que dois-je faire pour être transféré vers une autre prison?
May I make an appointment to see… Puis-je prendre un rendez-vous avec…
Can I change cell? Je peux changer de cellule?
Mail Courier
The person who deals with mail in the prison Le vaguemestre
Writing-paper Le papier à lettre
Pen Le stylo
I would like to buy a stamp J’aimerais acheter un timbre
Have I received any letters? Y a-t-il des lettres pour moi?
Have my letters been sent? Est-ce que mes lettres ont été expédiées?
I would like to write to my family J’aimerais écrire à ma famille
How much does it cost to send a letter to the UK? Combien coûte un timbre pour le Royaume-Uni?
Food Nourriture
Meal Le repas
Breakfast Le petit-déjeuner
Lunch Le déjeuner / le repas de midi
Dinner Le dîner / le repas du soir
Meat La viande
Fish Le poisson
Potatoes Des pommes de terre
Vegetables Des légumes
Egg(s) Un oeuf (des oeufs)
Milk Le lait
Tea Le thé
Coffee Le café
Water L’eau
Bread Le pain
Butter Le beurre
Pasta Les pâtes
Rice Le riz
Sugar Le sucre
Salt Le sel
Pepper Le poivre
Do you want something to eat? Voulez-vous quelque chose à manger?
What are we having to eat today? Que mangeons-nous aujourd’hui?
Have you finished eating? Avez-vous fini de manger?
I am hungry J’ai faim
To eat Manger
I am thirsty J’ai soif
To drink Boire
I am a vegetarian Je suis végétarien(ne)
I am vegan Je suis vegan(e)
I do not eat pork Je ne mange pas de porc
I eat only halal meat Je mange que la viande halal
I have a special diet J’ai un régime alimentaire spécial
I have food allergies J’ai des allergies alimentaires
I am gluten intolerant Je suis intolérant au gluten
I am lactose intolerant Je suis intolérant au lactose
I like it Je l’aime
I do not like it Je ne l’aime pas
It is hot C’est chaud
It is cold C’est froid
Time Heure
The French use the 24-hour clock
What time is it? Quelle heure est-il?
It is 8 o’clock/8 am Il est 8 (huit) heures
It is 3 o’clock/3 pm Il est 15 (quinze) heures
At 10 am A 10 (dix) heures
At 4 pm A 16 (seize) heures
Morning Le matin
Midday Midi
Afternoon L’apres-midi
Evening Le soir
Midnight Minuit
Hygiene Hygiène
Soap Le savon
Toothbrush La brosse à dents
Toothpaste Le dentifrice
Deodorant Le déodorant
Towel La serviette
Facecloth Le gant de toilette
Shower La douche
Toilet Les toilettes
Clothes Les vêtements
Toilet paper Le papier toilette
Wash Se laver
Razor Le rasoir
Shave Se raser
I would like to have a shower J’aimerais prendre une douche
When will it be possible to have a shower? Quand sera-t-il possible de prendre une douche?
Barber / hairdresser Le coiffeur
I would like to have my hair cut J’aimerai me faire couper les cheveux
How and when can I wash my clothes? Comment et quand pourrais-je laver mes vêtements?
Money Argent
Accountancy Department Service Comptabilité
Money order Le mandat cash
International money order Le mandat international
Bank transfer Un virement bancaire
Have I received any money? Ai-je reçu de l’argent?
How much money is left? Combien d’argent reste-t-il?
How much does it cost to buy…? Combien coûte …?
Prisoner’s earnings Le pécule
Customs fine Amende douanière
I would like to start paying the fine Je voudrais commencer à payer l’amende
I have no money Je n’ai pas d’argent
Pastime activities Loisirs
Book Le livre
Reading La lecture
To read Lire
Television Le téléviseur / la télévision
Television programme L’émission de télévision
Television channel La chaîne de télevision
Sport Le sport
Sporting activity Activité sportive
Football Le football
Weight-lifting Les haltères
Cigarette La cigarette
To smoke Fumer
I would like to buy some J’aimerais acheter des cigarettes
Are there any English books? Y a-t-il des livres anglais?
Can I watch television? Puis-je regarder la télévision?
What do I have to do to have a television / to share the cost of renting a television? Que dois-je faire pour obtenir une télé/pour partager le coût de la location d’une télé?
Can I do some sport? Puis-je faire une activité sportive?
Can I participate? Puis-je participer?
Can I attend French classes? Puis-je suivre des cours de français?
Go out in the courtyard Sortir dans la promenade
Work Travail
To work Travailler
Work Le travail / un emploi
Is there any possibility of getting work? Y a-t-il une possibilité d’obtenir du travail?
How do I apply for work? Comment dois-je faire pour demander du travail
Will I receive a salary for work? Est-ce que je recevrai un salaire pour le travail?
How much will I earn? Je gagnerai combien?

4.4 Annex

FCDO leaflet: Support for British Nationals Abroad: Summary

FCDO leaflet: In Prison Abroad: Transfer to a UK Prison

List of English-Speaking Lawyers

List of Private Translators/Interpreters

Prisoners Abroad Forms

Prisoners Abroad Authorisation Form

Prisoners Abroad Family Contact Form

English in the Living in Detention

French Douanes (customs)

Royal Mail Guidance: sending and receiving items abroad


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