Judge removed from bench for sparing speeders

A judge in North Rhine-Westphalia refusing to prosecute speeders has been removed from the bench on the grounds that he is biased in favour of traffic violators.

Judge removed from bench for sparing speeders
Photo: DPA

The regional daily Westfallen Blatt reported this week that Judge Helmut Knöner had been suspended after his impartiality in cases of speeding was called into question by public prosecutors. The judge recently became famous for announcing he could not penalize people for driving too fast because he had serious misgivings about the legality of speed traps.

“Doubts about the impartiality of a judge are justified when … a judge takes a core position that affects his objectivity and neutrality,” Bernd Kahre, the head of Kröner’s district court, ruled. “The circumstances detailed by public prosecutors warrant concerns of prejudice.”

In early November, Knöner acquitted 42 speeders and said he would not penalise drivers until lawmakers had reviewed how, why and where speeding cameras can be used. He also raised concerns over the legal basis for photographing speeding drivers, saying that it was founded on unjustifiable anti-terrorism legislation.

“The question is whether these radar devices are primarily a way (for municipalities) to secure jobs and earn money,” he told Stern magazine last month.

Though normally prosecutors would have to ask for the judge to be recused for each case, Knöner cancelled all his court upcoming appearances following the decision against him this week.

“After that I called off all appointments in December,” he told Westfallen Blatt.

But he also remained defiant and determined to fight two charges of perversion of justice lodged against him by prosecutors.

“Everyone is playing their own game here, but scoring one victory here doesn’t meant victory overall,” he said.

The Local/rm

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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.

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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