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As mentioned in this question, in France, people need to stay at home, and carry the paper if not. The paper will basically explain why we are briefly outside home and that should avoid us being fined.

It has been reported on social media that homeless persons have been caught and fined by the police, but what I read was essentially unidentified pictures, unsourced testimonies, nothing official. Is there reliable or official sources confirming that police also fines homeless persons for not being confined at home?

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    I remember reading this from a normally reliable news source. But it was a specific police unit acting against national directives. So did it happen: yes. Was it supposed to happen: no. Does it happen often: no. (I'll post an answer if I find the source.) – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 24 at 8:14
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    Welcome to Skeptics! We want to focus our attention on doubtful claims that are widely held or are made by notable people. In the future, please always provide some references to places where the claim is being made. In this case, in searching for an example of the claim, the first Google result for me gave a definitive answer, so I will answer it rather than putting the question On Hold. – Oddthinking Mar 24 at 8:36
  • @Oddthinking, the rumour is widely spread in social networks without reliable sources. My sources of this claim, e.g. screenshots of Facebook or Tweeter unreliable posts, would still be unreliable. But I understand your point, thanks for your link. – Bebs V Mar 24 at 9:16
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    @BebsV: In an answer, we look for references that are reliable. In a question we don't look for reliable sources, we look for "notability sources" - they show that people widely believe it (or, close enough, someone well-known has made the claim, so probably it is widely believed). Links to widely shared tweet or Facebook post is fine. – Oddthinking Mar 24 at 10:28
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    I suspect that somewhere in the transcription/translation of this there is some confusion between "fine" and "citation". – Daniel R Hicks Mar 24 at 12:19
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It is a bit unclear at the moment. But it is certainly not just "fake news". It is an ongoing situation with "his word against his", with the police being one "his", and a not particularly trustworthy one to begin with. It looks much more true than false, without a final verdict being advised right now.

There are several human rights and homeless people organisations accusing the police of issuing fines to homeless. In locations like Toulouse, Lyon, Paris Bayonne, Lille, and Bordeaux.

While we do see seemingly exact numbers reported in cases like this:

This zeal to check and fine can go too far. In Lyon, the country's second most populous urban area, police handed out fines to four homeless men unarmed with certificates, according to the newspaper Le Progrès. The local prefecture is checking.
— Don Murray: "Police checks, fines fail to keep all the French at home as Macron has ordered", CBC.ca, Mar 22, 2020.

The Lyon préfecture has said that these fines, if confirmed after an internal investigation, would be “immediately void” due to being “contrary to instructions”, the Lyon local newspaper Le Progrès reported.
— Pauline Bock: "Coronavirus: France's homeless 'fined for not staying indoors' during COVID-19 lockdown", euronews, 20/03/2020.

On Friday, police in Lyon, south-eastern France, fined dozens of homeless people for loitering on the streets as they tried to enforce a government lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
"France's Covid-19 lockdown poses conundrum for homeless and migrants", rfi.fr, 22/03/2020.

In any case it seems quite noteworthy that this supposedly 'fake news' comes down through the channel of the national news agency Agence France Press:

PARIS (AFP) — French homeless organizations on Friday accused police of issuing fines to rough sleepers for failing to comply with self-isolation requirements under the strict social lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Without providing numbers, they said fines have been issued to homeless people in the French capital Paris, in Lyon in the east and Bayonne in the southwest.

“We request that clear instructions be given… so that these sanctions cease immediately,” Florent Gueguen, head of the FAS federation of homeless organizations told AFP.
— AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE: "French Police Fine Homeless People in Coronavirus Lockdown", March 20, 2020.

The real situation seems to be that a few rights organisations accuse the authorities of quite antisocial behaviour towards homeless people. The authorities deny this. But in the French case it is not so much different. Like any other case of for example overly often repeated police brutality or other violations perpetrated by them: French police are also in simple denial of otherwise very obvious facts, like constant overreaching brutality against the yellow vests protesters. Unless an independent investigation comes along, 'the police' is much less trustworthy than their opposition in this "his word against his".

Apart from similar incidents reported from elsewhere in France, the Lyon police issued this statement:

In a statement, the head of police in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, which includes the city of Lyon, said an internal investigation had concluded that no such fines had been issued.

The internal investigation carried out at the request of the Prefect determined that no homeless person had been fined. The Prefect calls for collective responsibility in order not to relay #FakeNews in this period of national struggle against #Covid_19 https://t.co/ORDJ1IAoNZ

— FRANCE 24 with AFP: "French police accused of fining homeless people amid virus lockdown", 21/03/2020.

Specifically, in Lyon the prefect issued this statement and made the local newspaper print the following:

No homeless person was fined in Lyon for non-compliance with confinement, said the prefect on Friday evening. The internal investigation carried out at his request established that this information relayed by social workers is erroneous. All the reports drawn up by Public Security were examined and were the subject of specific investigations. According to our information, six of them were marked "homeless".

In reality, these are six individuals in violation, checked in particular at Place de la Comédie, in Lyon (1st), Place Gabriel-Péri in Lyon (7th) and in Villeurbanne, who declared that they had no fixed abode. It is a subterfuge regularly used by certain offenders to avoid sanctions. The mention “SDF” therefore appears on the report, but does not reflect the reality of their situation.

[Twitter tweet of prefecture follows]

"We know the homeless in our districts," explains a Lyonnais police officer. "It is unthinkable that a police officer reproaches SDF for not being confined and assesses a PV that they cannot pay."
— CM: "No homeless fined for non-confinement, announces the prefect", Le Progrès, March 20, 2020.

But apart from all this overly specific denial in the first instance, things obviously are a bit chaotic in France right now. But a local police authority now accusing via Twitter – the national press agency, several newspapers, and several homeless charities – of spreading fake news over dozens of incidents, when his own oversight cannot encompass all the other places? While admitting that the internal reports – not covered by the content of the tweet referred to – indeed lists 'six cases', simply declaring them a fraud? Note the logical disparity between 'fined people just falsely claiming to be homeless' and 'local police know their homeless'. It makes little sense on three fronts: that police 'knowing' their SDF still write down these infos into a report, knowing them to be fraudulent. It is clearly not an accurate statement that 'the police just know all their homeless'. And it also doesn't make sense for non-homeless, fined people to alert the charities to their fraudulent plight, seeking help. On the other hand, a plausible speculation might be: if internal police whistleblowers see these 'homeless' fines on the databases and alert the charities…

The reality of this anti-social police behaviour is of course quite simply ridiculous: how should a homeless even start to pay a real fine of 135€? Well, look at these important details:

Homeless people were fined in Paris, Lyon and Bayonne, according to the charities. But those who have no place to stay find themselves in a catch-22 situation: they have nowhere to go, but they cannot stay in public places.

“We ask for clear advice to be sent to local authorities to immediately stop these sanctions,” Florent Gueguen, the director of France’s Federation of Solidarity (FAS), which includes 800 charities fighting against poverty and homelessness, told the AFP.

Maud Bigot, the director of the Lyon branch of the Samu Social, said her team had received a dozen calls in two days from homeless people who had been threatened with a fine for being in the streets. She said she had heard of similar cases in Lille, Bordeaux and Toulouse.
— Pauline Bock: "Coronavirus: France's homeless 'fined for not staying indoors' during COVID-19 lockdown", euronews, 20/03/2020.

It is even reported that the gendarmerie issued fines to their own comrades from the regular police out of uniform:

Coronavirus. Confinement: have the gendarmes issued a fine?

Overzealous gendarmes? Since the beginning of the lockdown, it's... it's the cops who say so. According to a source in the Paris police prefecture, relayed by Le Parisien, the Ministry of the Interior is said to have reframed the national gendarmerie after some of its officers were fined for not respecting travel restrictions.

Place Beauvau denies this, insisting that only general directives were given to the police to facilitate the movement of personnel carrying professional cards. However, the Paris Region daily brandishes opposite a note sent by a head of department of the prefecture's Public Order and Traffic Directorate mentioning this "reframing".

No fines, according to the prefecture

Incidents were indeed reported to have taken place at the beginning of the confinement in Seine-et-Marne, Essonne and Oise, involving plainclothes policemen going to their place of work. "No one was very aware of the derogatory nature of the measures," explains the police prefecture. But nobody was charged or fined, according to her.

What about these two policemen who were allegedly checked (without being fined) by three gendarmes last Thursday on the A7 at the Lançon-de-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) tollgate, while they were in uniform and in a professional vehicle, as reported by La Provence? The information is false, replies the national gendarmerie.
"Confinement : les gendarmes ont-ils verbalisé...des policiers?", Le Progrés, 24-03-2020.

Another overly specific denial was issued from the Bayonne prefecture, saying that their "municipal police did not issue fines". That does in no way exclude any other authority issuing fines, like the French Gendarmerie, other official uniformed officers, or any of those just threatening fines. To top it of, it seems that the situation is even exploited by – not fake news, but – "fake cops":

Fake policemen are extorting Chinese citizens for wearing face masks in France during the coronavirus outbreak, embassy officials say

So we have a chaotic situation, fake cops, real cops who are not really trustworthy, a populace in panic and homeless people being vulnerable and panicked as well. Given their hierarchy of needs it seems quite improbable for them to start lying en masse to diss 'the police' now. It seems also quite improbable for the respected organisations like Samu Social or Fédération des acteurs de la solidarité to just wantonly start spreading intentional lies. That frontier workers within the police did that is quite probable, whether it was against or in line with official instructions. That the higher-ups in the police food chain are not pleased by this obviously bad press is clear and that they just deny whatever when it suits them, independent of any veracity, is a well established fact.

And still: Whether there were dozens of fines issued or just threatened, by real cops, of whatever branch, or by 'fake cops', cannot be said with any certainty in any direction.

| improve this answer | |
  • minor nit-pic "...comes down through the cannel of the national news agency Agence France Press:". AFP isn't the national news agency - it "operates under a 1957 law as a commercial business independent of the French government" (or so says Wikipedia anyway). Not sure if this distinction makes it a more or less reliable source. – lx07 Mar 25 at 18:15
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    @lx07 Yeah. Well, not meant as 'national' like 'Soviet TASS', and not 'government official', but in 'that nation the biggest and nationwide', in terms of tradition, 'organisational structure as hint to reliability': more like reuters than Twitter or Youtube? If you know a better phrase for that, edit away… – LаngLаngС Mar 25 at 18:34
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I couldn't find any hard evidence to support the claim.

The first article and this second article both refer to this publication from Le Progrès which has since been removed.

This and this articles don't refer to any sources, mentioning verbal "claims" from charities. Those are essentially unverifiable.

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No, it has been denied by the relevant police force.

France 24, 21-Mar-2020

French homeless charities on Friday accused police of issuing fines to rough sleepers for failing to comply with a coronavirus lockdown as officials in Cannes said they would open the town’s world-famous festival pavilion to the homeless.

The FAS federation of homeless organisations said fines had been issued to homeless people in the French capital Paris, in Lyon in the east and Bayonne in the southwest, without providing numbers.

[...]

In a statement, the head of police in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, which includes the city of Lyon, said an internal investigation had concluded that no such fines had been issued.

The statement urged members of the public to stop spreading “fake news” on the subject.

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    Concluding that this didn't happen and is fake news seems quite strong. If it were a case of french police vs random social media posts, sure. But given that the police are not a neutral party in this case, why should more trust be placed in them than the FAS? – tim Mar 24 at 10:33
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    @tim "We have investigated ourselves and cleared ourselves of any wrongdoing." – F1Krazy Mar 24 at 14:51
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo I agree with you and Tim. My quote was sarcastic and intended to prove his point of how untrustworthy the police's statement on this is, given that they're the accused party. – F1Krazy Mar 24 at 16:49
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    Uh, I feel like I am the bearer of bad news, but under all the jurisdictions I am familiar with, there is a concept of Internal Affairs - an independent department of the police responsible for investigating complaints against the police. I haven't a reference to support it, but I assume this investigation was conducted by France's version of this. – Oddthinking Mar 24 at 22:37
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    In no jurisdiction that I am familiar with does the general population believe that police internal affairs divisions are independent or honest. – StackOverthrow Mar 25 at 0:16

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