• Germany edition
 
Plea bargains 'could warp German justice'
Photo: DPA

Plea bargains 'could warp German justice'

Published: 08 Nov 2012 12:29 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Nov 2012 12:29 GMT+01:00

The German system has a duty to uncover all the facts of a case in an inquisitorial rather than adversarial format - the judges are involved with both sets of lawyers in trying to figure out what happened, rather than acting as a referee between two opposing sides.

This concept could be threatened by a 2009 law which regulates confessions bargains, Andreas Voßkuhle, president of the Constitutional Court, said this week. Others fear such deals could pressure suspects into false confessions.

The court's doubts, discussed in a preliminary negotiation on Wednesday, were sparked by a new study which found that judges were not keeping to the rules set out in the "deal", but were continuing to make informal bargains with state prosecutors and defence lawyers.

The general rule of thumb is that the accused can have his or her sentence cut by a third if they confess, a reduction that many critics see as a temptation that could pervert justice.

The Constitutional Court is currently deliberating three separate constitutional complaints against verdicts based on such deals. The plaintiffs say their constitutional right not to incriminate themselves had been violated by the bargains.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, speaking at the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, floated possible alterations to the 2009 law in response to the judge's concerns. She said that the law had been conceived to regulate the "wilderness" of such deals that had existed before. The law had been passed specifically to limit the number of false confessions.

She acknowledged that the results of the study, carried out by Düsseldorf law professor Karsten Altenhain, were "frightening" and must be addressed by lawmakers.

Altenhain questioned around 330 judges, state prosecutors, and defence lawyers in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia as part of his study, which was conducted specifically for the Constitutional Court.

More than half of the defence lawyers described cases where suspects gave confessions that were probably false in order to avoid a heavy sentence. Judges, meanwhile, readily made the deals to shorten complicated trials, the study found.

Klaus Tolksdorf, president of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), said the study uncovered a "structural problem" in Germany's criminal prosecution system. "In principle, consensus and criminal law cannot co-exist," he said.

Germany's Attorney General Harald Range spoke of a "collective sense of unease" among legal professionals about confession deals.

The Local/DAPD/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

23:51 November 8, 2012 by pepsionice
To explain to a German how this works....the book will say you commit a certain crime, then you should get between five and twelve years in prison. So you commit the crime, go to court, and then say that you know this drug dealer, or this local guy launders money, or this wealthy guy who hides money in Tunisia. The prosecutor says ok....and deals you a fine situation for five years, and then the judge steps in to offer probation for three of the five years.....you only serve two years max. The public never knows about the deals or how they are worked out....everything is done behind closed doors. It says alot about a society, when punishment gets to be a secretive deal and you only do half what the book says you should do.
Today's headlines
Germany plan air lifts to help fight Ebola
A Liberian man holds his daughter as they wait for treatment for suspected Ebola symptoms in Monrovia. Photo: DPA

Germany plan air lifts to help fight Ebola

Germany and France will send military transport planes to West Africa to help efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel and military officials said on Friday. READ  

Germany beefs up asylum rules for Balkans

Germany beefs up asylum rules for Balkans

Germany made it harder Friday for people from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia to apply for asylum after lawmakers classified the three Balkan countries as safe, with respect for basic rights. READ  

German Muslims rally against extremism
Muslims pray in Kreuzberg, Berlin, on Friday outside a mosque which was damaged in an arson attack. Photo: DPA

German Muslims rally against extremism

Muslims across Germany held a day of prayers and rallies on Friday to condemn both Islamic extremism and a backlash against their faith that has seen arson attacks on mosques. READ  

German military flight to Iraq starts with a hiccup
The trainers on the air strip in Hohn, Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: Bundeswehr.

German military flight to Iraq starts with a hiccup

Military trainers flew to northern Iraq from Germany on Friday, ahead of a huge delivery of weapons from the German military, but things didn’t initially go as planned. READ  

Munich gets four Euro 2020 matches
Photo: DPA

Munich gets four Euro 2020 matches

UPDATE: Munich will play host to four Euro 2020 games, European football’s governing body Uefa announced in Geneva on Friday, but London was the real winner. READ  

Driver, 18, ploughs into school pupils
The scene by the bus stop outside the school in Diepholz. Photo: DPA

Driver, 18, ploughs into school pupils

An 18-year-old drove into a group of students outside a school in western Germany on Friday morning, injuring several. READ  

View from Germany
'In a globalized world we don't need more loners'
'No' campaign supporters celebrate in Edinburgh after the results were announced. Photo: DPA

'In a globalized world we don't need more loners'

UPDATE: The German government welcomed the result of the Scottish independence referendum on Friday, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling it the "right decision". READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's beer
Photo: DPA

Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's beer

The Local's Oktoberfest guide chugs some of the Bavarian tipple fueling this whole shindig. READ  

Berlin squat ripped apart by fire
Kreuzberg's Cuvrybrache. Photo: DPA

Berlin squat ripped apart by fire

UPDATE: One of Berlin’s biggest squats was torn apart by a fire on Thursday night following an argument. READ  

Sterilized woman gets pregnant, sues doctors
Photo: DPA

Sterilized woman gets pregnant, sues doctors

A woman who gave birth after becoming sterilized has tried and failed to sue the hospital which carried out the operation. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Culture
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's tents
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Drunk teachers ruin school trip to Hamburg
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Oktoberfest 2014: The best and worst in dirndl fashion
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,348
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd