DOUAI, France (Reuters) - A Frenchman with multiple pedophilia convictions went on trial on Monday over the kidnap and rape of a 5-year-old boy, a case that has prompted some in government to consider castration for repeat sex offenders.
Francis Evrard, 63, has spent half of his life behind bars for sexually abusing children. In August 2007, just days after his release from prison, he kidnapped a boy in the northern town of Roubaix, locked him in a garage, drugged him and raped him.
"The time has come for me to say that it's true, yes. I did it, but I can't explain why. I have impulses," Evrard told the court at the start of his trial in the northern town of Douai.
The case caused such outrage in French public opinion that the government rushed out new legislation in response in 2008 that allows authorities to keep criminals in jail after the end of their term, if they are deemed to remain a threat to society.
That was criticized by lawyers and human rights activists who said it challenged fundamental principles of justice, but Evrard is now being cited as a reason for the government to take new measures against repeat sex offenders.
Evrard wrote to President Nicolas Sarkozy this month asking for his testicles to be surgically removed to free him from his pedophile impulses. Surgical castration is illegal in France and the president has not commented publicly on the request.
Mustafa Kocacurt, the father of his 5-year-old victim denounced Evrard's letter as a stunt aimed at obtaining a more lenient sentence, pointing out that Evrard had made the request two years after his crime but days before his trial.
"The justice system should do what it has to do and make sure that this man never gets out of jail again. He has already caused too much pain," Kocacurt told reporters at the court.
France, along with a number of other European countries including Sweden and Denmark, already allows "chemical castration" or the use of drugs to lower the sex drive of offenders who agree to it.
But Evrard's letter and his trial, as well as a separate case in September in which a woman was abducted and strangled by a recently released rapist, have prompted senior ministers to advocate beefing up possible punishments against sex offenders.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the government was considering forcing some of them to undergo chemical castration, while Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the option of physical castration should be debated, including in parliament.
Sarkozy, a former interior minister, rose to power on his "tough on crime" credentials. He and his government have been widely criticized for churning out ill-considered new laws as populist, knee-jerk reactions to public outrage over crimes.
Former Justice Minister Robert Badinter, the man behind the abolition of the death penalty in France, spoke out on Monday against the drive toward new castration rules.
"We don't mutilate human beings ... in our societies," Badinter said on Europe 1 radio, adding that it was not for Evrard to decide his own fate.
"He will answer for his crime and I think that at his age, he's not going to enjoy freedom again anytime soon, if at all."
(Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Jon Boyle)