Scales of Justice
A judge decided the girl had not been coerced into the sexual encounter Reuters

France is engulfed in a legal storm after senior prosecutors decided that an 11-year-old girl 'consented' to having sex with a 28-year-old man.

The man has been charged committing a sexual offence against a minor but not rape because prosecutors believe he did not force himself on the chlid. In the UK, having sex with a person under the age of 13 is automatically deemed statutory rape.

In April, the defendant met the child in a Paris park before inviting her back to his suburban apartment, promising to teach her how to kiss.

Once he had got her back to his place, he subsequently had sex with her.

"There was no violence, no constraint, no threat, and no surprise," prosecutors said.

They judged that she had consented to the sexual encounter because she was not physically forced into the act.

But the girl's mother was furious with the decision. She said her daughter "thought it was too late, she didn't have the right to protest, thought it wouldn't make any difference".

"She went into auto pilot, without emotion and without reaction," the mother added.

The judgement hinged on the contentious issue of whether submission amounted to consent. It is not uncommon for rape victims to "switch-off" and accept what is coming to them if they feel they cannot escape.

"The question of consent or its absence should never even be asked when it comes to rape victims who are minors," Rights group Le Voix de l'Enfant said in a statement.

Other campaigners have called for French law to be overhauled to include statutory rape, as is the case in the UK and many countries around the world.

The law currently states: "Committing a sexual offence against a minor under the age of 15 without violence, constraint, threat or surprise is punished by five years' imprisonment and a fine of €75,000 (£66,000, $88,000)."

There is no statutory rape law in France iStock