Over the past five years France has moved to beef up its anti-terror laws in response to a series of attacks by Islamic radicals, most notably the November 2015 Bataclan theatre massacre in Paris that killed 90 concert-goers and a truck attack in Nice on Bastille Day 2016 that left 86 people dead.
France's current counter-terrorism law, “Strengthening Internal Security and the Fight Against Terrorism” (SILT), came into force in November 2017.
That bill gave greater powers to prefects, the interior minister’s local representatives across France. In particular it gives them the power to designate public spaces as special security zones, allowing them to put limits on who can enter and leave them. It also grants powers to limit the movement of people who are considered a national security threat and to close places of worship as they see fit.
The bill also gave - for the first time - security services the power to investigate civil servants, including school teachers, if they are in a position of authority and are believed to pose a risk of radicalisation.
The SILT law also allows security services to carry out identity checks in border areas and within 10 km of airports and railway stations. Previously they were only allowed to carry out checks within airports and stations.
The law also mandates that records be kept on all people entering France by air as well as a new legal regime for wiretapping, expanding the remit of a previous law from 1981.
SILT also created a new criminal offence for parents who incite their children to commit acts of terrorism, punishable with a 15-year prison sentence and a fine of €225,000.
The 2017 bill essentially enshrines emergency provisions put in place in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks in 2015, which were extended extended six times but expired in November 2017. A key component of these was to provide police chiefs and the minister of interior with the power to order house arrests and searches, typically based on secret information (known as 'notes blanches') provided by the French internal security service (DGSI).