• Germany edition
 
Changes to custody law spark controversy
Photo: DPA

Changes to custody law spark controversy

Published: 09 Nov 2012 16:01 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Nov 2012 16:01 GMT+01:00

Those being detained on grounds of public safety beyond the end of their custodial sentences should henceforth have separate cells and enjoy a level of comfort "in line with general living conditions", the Bundestag resolved.

This decision follows a ruling by the Constitutional Court in May 2011, which declared as unconstitutional the previous practice of treating potentially dangerous mentally disturbed offenders the same as ordinary criminals.

As well as more comfortable living conditions, offenders will also have the right to therapy. Ultimately, the aim would be to help perpetrators reintegrate into society.

But not everyone has welcomed the amendments, with critics arguing that it was a mistake to abolish the state's right to retrospectively impose preventative custody on a prisoner who hadn't shown signs of mental disturbance at the time of conviction.

But the German government insists that this doesn't pose a problem to public safety. "In practice, you can see that the use of retrospective preventative custody is essentially negligible," explained Christian Ahrendt of the Free Democratic Party, junior partner in the governing coalition.

Besides, he argued, the legal situation regarding retrospective preventative custody is so complex, owing to the need to prove the danger of an imminent and "specific crime, not just one that might take place in the next few weeks," that in practice the vast majority of applications to impose it ended up being overruled by the courts anyway.

Yet the opposition Social Democratic Party has strongly resisted the changes, maintaining that the convoluted legal situation alone is insufficient reason to abolish a provision which could protect the public from dangerous offenders.

North-Rhine Westphalia Justice Minister Thomas Kutschaty (SPD) underlined that although the current law affects relatively few cases, these cases invariably represent "highly dangerous people" whose "especial threat only becomes clear over the course of their prison sentence."

"Such glaring security loops must not be accepted," he insisted, suggesting that children could be at greater risk of attack by the mentally unstable.

But for the government, this is above all a constitutional question, leaving little room for emotive arguments.

"When the security interests of the general public collide with a dangerous perpetrator's right to freedom, as in the case of preventative custody, then we have already reached the natural limits of the constitutional state, as the European and Constitutional Courts have already reminded us," said Andrea Astrid Vosshoff.

The debate is likely to drag on, as resistance in the Federal Assembly could delay implementation of the new law, which will otherwise to come into force by May 2013.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP) urged the body to press ahead with ratifying the legislation, though a speedy resolution doesn't look probable.

The Local/pmw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

18:56 November 9, 2012 by raandy
I assume they mean the criminally insane. I see a small amount of correctness in a step up above the criminal sane. A little but not a lot.

Allowing these CI people to meet with a shrink is positive .but rehab in jail, not happening.
Today's headlines
'We're camping for six days outside Apple store'
Photo: The Local

'We're camping for six days outside Apple store'

Most holidaymakers on a week-long camping trip pitch up by lakes or next to the beach. But two Berliners are hoping to break a record by settling in for six days outside the city's Apple Store to be the first to get their hands on new iPhone 6. READ  

Auschwitz guard charged over 300,000 deaths
The gates at the former concentration camp of Auschwitz. Photo: DPA

Auschwitz guard charged over 300,000 deaths

A 93-year old man from Lower Saxony will stand trial for 300,000 counts of accessory to murder at the Auschwitz death camp while a member of the Waffen-SS. READ  

Germany can't crack 'CIA double agent' laptop
Photo: DPA

Germany can't crack 'CIA double agent' laptop

An alleged CIA double agent secured his laptop so well that German secret services have failed to crack it since he was arrested in July, according to reports. READ  

Netflix launches in Germany (in English too)
Some of the cast of Orange is the New Black at a photocall in Mexico. Photo: DPA

Netflix launches in Germany (in English too)

UPDATE: TV streaming service Netflix opened its virtual doors in Germany on Tuesday in the face of stiff competition from existing players. Users will be able to watch shows in English too. READ  

Lufthansa pilots abandon Frankfurt strike plans
Ready to go again. Photo: DPA

Lufthansa pilots abandon Frankfurt strike plans

UPDATE: Pilots' union Cockpit has announced that a planned strike at Frankfurt Airport on Tuesday has been called off. READ  

One of these men will be Berlin's next mayor
Jan Stöß, Raed Saleh, Michael Müller Photo: DPA

One of these men will be Berlin's next mayor

Three men are hoping to become Berlin’s next mayor after Klaus Wowereit steps down in December. With nominations closing on Monday, The Local looks at the three politicians who want to lead the city. READ  

Hotels hike up prices six-fold for Oktoberfest
Photo: DPA

Hotels hike up prices six-fold for Oktoberfest

As an estimated six million people get ready to raise their glasses for the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, hotels are raising their prices by as much as six times their regular rates. READ  

Police pin down Lidl meat needle culprit
A CCTV of the suspect released by police. Photo: Lübeck Polizei

Police pin down Lidl meat needle culprit

A woman has come forward to admit hiding needles in packets of meat in discount supermarkets after CCTV images enabled police to pick up the thread of the investigation. READ  

Germany puts first 'Isis jihadist' on trial
Kreshnik Berisha in court in Frankfurt on Monday. Photo: DPA

Germany puts first 'Isis jihadist' on trial

UPDATE: An alleged German jihadist went on trial on Monday accused of fighting for the Islamic State in Syria group, amid calls for tougher action to prevent attacks in Europe by the militants. READ  

JobTalk Germany
'Three types of firms are hiring foreigners'
Photo: Shutterstock

'Three types of firms are hiring foreigners'

What kind of companies are hiring foreigners in Germany? And which type of firm should you target for your next career move? Recruitment expert Chris Pyak reveals all to JobTalk. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
National
Neo-Nazis are attacking newspaper offices
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Election night in Brandenburg and Thuringia
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Berlin spy station sees tourism boom
Photo: DPA/ESA
Tech
VIDEO: How one German astronaut sees Earth
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Photo: DPA
Politics
Are Germans right to want cooler relations with USA?
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: Bayernpartei/DPA
Politics
Why some Bavarians want a Scottish 'Yes'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
12 things to do in Berlin for less than a latte
Photo: Facebook
National
Bavarian waiter breaks beer-carrying record
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten German place names that make us giggle
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

3,264
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd