Footage of a violent assault in a Paris night bus has caused a stir since its release on the Web on Monday. The scene took place on December 7 last year around 3:45am at the Barbès-Rochechouart station in the north of the French capital.


The original video is 6 minutes long. The images have been blurred by FRANCE 24.

The assault, lasting several minutes, was filmed by CCTV cameras on a night bus operated by the Paris public transport company, the RATP. The victim, wearing a scarf, stands in the foreground. He is approached from behind by four youths, who then push and rob him. The young man tries to fend off the attack, aided by (few) passengers, but the situation spills over and he is beaten up. Powerless, the bus driver calls for help and remains in his seat [according to the SUD-RATP trade union, drivers have been instructed to remain in their cabins in such events].

According to French daily 20 minutes, the video was first posted on December 17 on a police officer’s Facebook account – which was shut down at midday yesterday. It was subsequently posted anew by several bloggers. The footage, which according to the RATP should not have gone public, has since been withdrawn from YouTube and Dailymotion. However, the images are still circulating on foreign-based websites.

A document produced by the French interior ministry, which lists cases solved thanks to CCTV, mentions the incident. The events are described just as they unfold on the video. The document states that two of the attackers have been identified and charged with assault.

SUD-RATP immediately denounced the management’s alleged habit of downplaying such incidents, which it claims are very frequent. The latest assault has no doubt breathed new life into the debate on the shortage of security personnel in public transport.

'Had I been in the driver’s seat, I would certainly have done the same'

Thierry Dendrael works as a machinist for the Paris public transport (RATP). He has already been assaulted twice during his work.

The driver set off what we call the ‘discreet alarm’. This alerts the nearest RATP security post, who can then dispatch a team to the scene. The CCTV footage, which is recorded non-stop on a hard disk, is then sent to the criminal investigation department. The leak probably came from the police.

You can tell that the driver is at a loss. Had I been in his place, I would certainly have done the same. We’re not paid to get punched. You mustn’t forget we all have our own families. I’ve driven night buses before and I can guarantee that when you’ve got drunkards on board in the middle of the night, you don’t want to get into trouble. Amid the fear and stress, it’s very difficult to know what to do. Even if you later feel like you should’ve done something.

Over the past four to five months there has been an increase in violence and assaults, including sexual assaults, against passengers. Attackers know it’s less risky to attack any random passenger than to take on the employee of a major company such as the RATP.

When the government boasts of “positive figures” in terms of security, it isn’t talking about public transport. Figures for petty crime are certainly improving, but in some neighbourhoods you can get up to 300 assaults on buses every year.

There are 70 buses operating in the Paris region at night, so we can’t put policemen in each of them. We have to decide what we want: a society that is totally policed or one that emphasises prevention?"