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Organisers’ responsibilities

 I) A few basic legal concepts

A few basic legal concepts which will help you to understand the rest of the article :

What is a natural person? And a legal person?

A natural person is a living human being, regardless of sex, race or religion, according to the preamble to the Constitution.
A legal person is a group of individuals united by a common interest. For example, three friends joined forces to set up an IT services company. This company is a legal person. Certain individuals who wish to do so can set up Legal persons under private law . They can be companies, associations, unions...

What are the differences between the French words ‘contravention’, ‘délit’ and ‘crime’?

Contraventions, délit and crimes are the 3 main types of offences which result in criminal punishment.
They can be identified according to their respective level of severity, the types of penalties which apply, competent courts, opportunities for settlement and lengths of sentences.
- contraventions, the least serious offences: illegal parking, disrespect of the flag, minor bodily harm, etc.
- délits : theft, abandonment of family, sexual assault (without rape), manslaughter, etc.
- crimes, the most serious offences: murder, assassination, terrorism, rape, etc.

What is criminal liability/civil liability?

Criminal liability isaccountability for any criminal acts you commit.

Insurers cannot participate in criminal cases, as they can in civil cases, because it is not possible to insure yourself against your own law-breaking.

Civil liabilityis the obligation to compensate for harm caused to others.

There are two types :

 - contractual: this is the liability of one party to a contract to repair any damage caused to the other party,
-  tortious: this is the liability to repair any damage caused to a third party.

Civil liability is concerned more with ensuring that anyone suffering damage is compensated for it rather than punishing the person who caused it.
Insurers plays a significant part in civil liability cases.
Insurance cover means that victims are better compensated and the person found liable loses none of his/her private property.
The head of the organisation is not criminally liable for any offences committed by members, but he/she is liable for his/her own offences, even if they were committed in the pursuit, or in connection with the pursuit, of his/her duties.
Since this is a matter of public order, there is no way of absolving oneself from criminal responsibility.

 II) Liability insurance: cover is obligatory

The student association must have organisers’ liability insurance to cover any events which they organise.
This insurance covers the association and its premises against the financial consequences of physical, material or consecutive immaterial damage suffered by third parties and attributable to the association’s activities.
Contact your insurer or your student mutual insurance company for information, preferably when you go to negotiate your contract at the beginning of your period of responsibility. You can also check if the association’s events are covered and what conditions apply.
The personal responsibility of the leaders is not automatically included in the association’s general civil liability contract!!

 III) Noncompliance with the law: the risks

- the law banning alcohol advertising
Any sponsorship campaign intended as or providing direct or indirect propaganda or publicity for alcoholic drinks is forbidden (Article L3323-2 of the code de la santé publique)
A ‘délit’ : 5th category fine (up to 3,500 euros)

-  the law banning open bar parties and weekends

“Offering unlimited free alcoholic drinks for commercial purposes or selling them for a nominal price” (Article L.3322-9 of the code de la santé publique).

A ‘délit’: 7,500 euro fine

Natural persons also face the enhanced sentence of a temporary ban on exercising the rights attached to the licence to sell alcohol for a period of one year or more
For repeat offences within 5 years, the sentence is a year’s imprisonment and a 15,000 euro fine.
Legal persons can be held criminally liable.

The law banning the sale alcohol to a minor

Article 20 of the licence to sell alcohol also stipulates that “giving, distributing or sending to minors leaflets, blotters, exercise book covers or objects of any kind naming an alcoholic drink or promoting, or bearing the trademark or name of the manufacturer of such a drink is forbidden.

A ‘délit’ : a 7,500 euro fine for natural persons (1 year’s imprisonment and a 15,000 euro fine for a repeated offence within 5 years).

-  the 1992 Noise act
Pursuant to this act, the Public Heath Code (articles R 1334-30 onwards), provides that any person responsible him/herself or through a person, a thing under his/her care, or an animal for which he/she is responsible, for any noise which might disturb the peace in a neighbourhood on account of its length, repetitive nature or intensity, will be charged with a third category ‘contravention’.
If you hire private companies to run part or all of the event, they are subject to the same regulations.

A ‘délit’: a fine of between 150 and 750 euros

 IV) There are no grounds for criminal charges... What happens at the civil level?

So you now know that, in criminal cases, it is the natural person who is liable for any offence he/she commits.
However, in situations where damage is caused to others, if there are no grounds for criminal charges, an adult or his/her dependants (or parents in the case of a minor) can instigate a civil action against an association and seek damages.

So the legal person has moral responsibilities :
For :
- ensuring that people are not incited to drink alcohol
- ensuring that no alcohol is served to people who are drunk
- providing alcohol awareness resources before and during the event.

(refer to the “Les actions de prévention pour une soirée en toute sécurité“ article)