• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Changes to custody law spark controversy

The Local · 9 Nov 2012, 16:01

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

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'll freeze Turkey talks' warns EU as arrests continue
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a radical purge against anyone suspected of complicity in the coup attempt. Photo: DPA

As Turkish authorities on Friday widened their sweeping post-coup crackdown to the business sector, the European Union's enlargement commissioner implicitly warned that the bloc would freeze Turkey's accession talks if the crackdown violated the rule of law.

I’m ashamed of Germany’s refugee failure: Green leader
Cem Özdemir. Photo: DPA

The head of the Green Party has responded angrily to Angela Merkel’s speech on refugees on Friday, saying he feels “ashamed at Germany’s failure".

German satirists mock Erdogan (and his penis)
Photo: DPA

Tempting fate?

Huge pro-Erdogan rally puts strain on Turkish community
Erdogan supporters at a rally in 2014. Photo: DPA

Tens of thousands of supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plan to rally in Cologne on Sunday, as tensions over Turkey's failed coup have put German authorities on edge.

Opinion
How the Berlin startup scene is wasting its potential
Photo: DPA

"The truth is, there really isn't a truly successful international Berlin startup."

Five years' jail for German darknet weapons dealer
Photo: DPA

He had sold weapons to known Isis-sympathizers and far-right extremists.

Prickly Bavarian calls out cops on hedgehogs' noisy sex
Photo: DPA

Caught in the act.

International or German state school - which one's best?
Photo: DPA

Deciding between sending your child to a German state school or a private international school isn't easy. Max Bringmann has experienced both.

13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make

Sure-fire ways to get off on the wrong foot in the German language.

Captain Schweinsteiger retires from international football
Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

He has won a World Cup with Die Mannschaft and captained them at Euro 2016. On Friday Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement from the national team.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
10,585
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd