Couple fined over 'sex games' at war memorial

A French couple has been fined €1,000 for making a pornographic video at Vimy Ridge, one of the most revered memorials of the First World War.

The incident is said to be part of a pattern of late night sexual activities at the memorial park, near Arras in northern France, which was granted "in perpetuity" to the people of Canada in 1922. Another couple was fined for taking nude photographs of each other in the park last January. In both cases, the images were posted on paying sites on the internet.

"The memorial has been frequented by exhibitionists and voyeurs for many years but the coming of the internet has made it easier to trace the culprits," the deputy regional public prosecutor, Elise Bozzolo, said.

In the latest incident, a married couple in their 30s made a video of themselves performing sexual acts in the grounds of the park after its closure to the public at dusk. Vimy Ridge was captured from the Germans by mostly Canadian troops in April 1917. It has become, with the Newfoundland Memorial Park on the Somme battlefield, one of the two great symbols of Canadian sacrifice in the Great War.

The husband and wife were found guilty of exhibitionism and each was fined €500 and given a four-month suspended jail sentence. They were also ordered to pay one euro in symbolic damages to the Canadian government.

The couple, from Béthune, in the Pas-de-Calais, said they enjoyed "sexual games" and had not realised the significance of the site.

Other British and Canadian First World War cemeteries and memorials in northern France have been vandalised in recent years, often by small local groups of Nazi sympathisers. Local politicians have been at pains to point out that neither the vandalism nor the sexual activity reflects the attitude of the vast majority of local people, who take very seriously their "duty of memory" to the Allied war dead.

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