German high court upholds incest law

Germany's Constitutional Court has ruled that incest is still punishable by law.

German high court upholds incest law
The siblings in the case in 2006. Photo: dpa

In a highly publicized case, the highest court in Germany upheld the criminal punishment of incest on Thursday.

Paragraph 173 of the German penal code (StGB), which states that coitus between siblings warrants a penalty of up to two years imprisonment or fines, remains constitutional, the court said.

The court did not overstep its boundaries, it said, because it considered many factors in deciding to uphold the criminality of “the deep-seated social taboo of incest.” Among these considerations were protecting societal order from the harmful effects of incest and protecting an “inferior” partner in such a relationship. The Karlsruhe court also considered “the prevention of grave genetic disease in the offspring of incestuous relationships.”

The Constitutional Court ruling refers to a case of incest between a brother and sister, Patrick and Susan from Leipzig, who have four children together. The brother’s appeals to several jail sentences for incest have so far been unsuccessful.

The head judge in the case, Winfried Hassemer, voted against the ruling, arguing that the punishment was disproportionate to the crime. The decision, he said, was merely about “moral beliefs, but doesn’t have a concrete interest protected by German law in mind.”

But according to the court, the incest law goes beyond the right to make personal choices because it can “effect the family and society.”

The case was brought by lawyers for Patrick, who has already spent two years in jail over his relationship with his sister, which began after they met each other for the first time as adults in 2000.

The lawyers had sought a ruling that it was unconstitutional to punish consensual sexual relations between two adults and that the law should therefore be overturned. This would have forced a lower court in the eastern state of Saxony to throw out the latest incest charges against Patrick, who was born in Leipzig in the former East Germany in 1976.

He was taken away from his alcoholic, violent father when he was three years old and placed in foster care, and later adopted by another family. He met his sister Susan, who is eight years younger than him, when he was reunited with his mother in Leipzig in 2000.

The brother and his then 16-year-old sister embarked on a relationship that remained secret until their first child was born a year later. Of their four children, two are handicapped.

Patrick, has refused to end the relationship with his sister and risks another jail sentence in the current case that was brought after the birth of their fourth child in 2006.



Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners