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It may have shocked the British tabloid press, but the Paris trial of the Home Counties "madam" accused of running an international call girl network for the rich and occasionally famous left the French both bemused and rather bored last week.
In a country famed for its liberal attitude towards sex, paid for or otherwise, the reaction was simply, "So what? So what if Margaret MacDonald, a year-old former convent girl from Bedford , allegedly had a laptop computer containing details of hundreds of prostitutes, along with the names of politicians, businessmen and celebrities who used them?
Briton's 'Paris vice ring'. I don't find it very interesting one way or the other. There are more important things in life to worry about. While the case of MacDonald, charged with "aggravated prostitution" and facing six years in jail if found guilty, was sensational news in every British newspaper, it barely rated a mention in the French press. Only one journal, the tabloid Parisien, covered the story in any detail, nicknaming MacDonald "La Madame Claude Anglaise", in honour of the famous, and even admired, French madam of the Sixties who once said: "There only two things that people will always pay for - food and sex.
I wasn't any good at cooking. Even then, the paper stuck to non-sensational reports of the hearing and buried them on inside pages. So it was not surprising that, on the streets of Paris, many people had not even heard about the case.
The few that had were not surprised to learn that it was front-page news in Britain. She added: "If I'm shocked about anything, it's that six years does seem to be an unusually harsh punishment, but then legal judgments here are not always very coherent. While MacDonald, who has two university degrees and speaks Japanese, Arabic and Greek, insisted in court that she never forced her girls to sleep with clients and that she never, ever mentioned the "S" word, the French are much less squeamish about sex than their Anglo-Saxon neighbours.