Deutsche Internet Bibliothek/Criminal Justice Glossary

The Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Deutscher Bibliotheksverband have produced a website called ‘deutsche internet bibliothek’ (um – what happened to hyphens?). This is a collection of links.

Via Handakte WebLAWg.

They will answer (almost) all your questions too, by email. But not juristische oder medizinische Fachfragen – does that mean all legal and medical questions or just ‘Doctor, what’s that funny twinge in my knee?’I investigated a link to a glossary of criminal justice in Europe, in German, French and English. The search takes you to an alphabetical list in one language where you can click on words and get an explanation in the other, that is, you can see a real list of entries, not just a search mask.

bq. Willkommen auf der deutschen Startseite des Glossars ‘Strafrecht in Europa’, einer deutsch-englisch-französischen Gemeinschaftsproduktion, die von der DBH e.V. mit Unterstützung des Grotius-Programmes der Europäischen Union und der Danish Welfare Society realisiert worden ist.

Dieses Glossar wurde für diejenigen entwickelt, die daran interessiert sind, wichtige Begriffe aus dem Strafrecht nicht nur übersetzt, sondern auch erläutert zu bekommen. Die zunehmende Vernetzung Europas macht deutlich, dass eine genaue Kenntnis der unterschiedlichen Strafrechtssysteme und eine Verständigung darüber unabdingbar sind.

Together with a few words in the other language, there is a summary of the situation in England, France and Germany. The glossary is easy to use and fast, even when switching languages.

I am not sure how reliable the information is. Under affidavit, for instance, the German word Eid is given, together with some cognates, including eidesstattliche Versicherung, which plays the same role as an affidavit, but is not quite the same thing, so a definition of the two would have been helpful. And the situation in Germany is described, in part, as follows:

bq. Solemn declaration as to the truth of a statement, e.g. a witness swearing an oath before court. As a rule witnesses are put under oath unless there is a legal impediment or the court deems it unnecessary. The judge quotes the standard form of the oath to the witness: “You swear by God, the almighty and all-knowing, that you have told the whole truth and nothing but the truth according to the best of your knowledge and have kept nothing secret”, with the witness answering: “I swear, so help me God.”

Actually, I have never seen a witness put under oath in Germany. It is regarded as weakening the force of the oath if it is used all the time. Still, a witness who lies can be charged with uneidliche Falschaussage, unsworn false testimony (which is why the eidesstattliche Versicherung, declaration in lieu of an oath, carries weight).

This is a quibble, perhaps, but the definitions quote no sources so they would need double-checking. It’s a nice reference, and there is not much on criminal law available in two languages.
Authors and translators are credited.

Further investigation: I looked up anhängig. I know the EU sometimes uses the court is seised of for anhängig and pending for rechtshängig. This is comprehensible to everyone who has been initiated in the vocabulary and incomprehensible to anyone else. So what does the ju-lex glossary suggest?

First, it gives anhängiges Verfahren and vocabulary for Verfahren:

bq. Verfahren
~ einstellen nach Paragraph…
~ eröffnen
anhängiges ~
beschleunigtes ~
objektives ~
vereinfachtes ~
~ gegen Jugendliche

bq. en. Proceedings
to open a case
pending case
to discontinue a cas
summary proceedings
in rem case
simplified procedure
case involving juveniles
procedural safeguards

bq. fr. Procédure
Procédure simplifiée
Comparution immédiate
Procédure rapide

Then follows a block ‘Situation in Deutschland’ and then ‘Situation in ‘England and Wales’ and ‘Situation in Frankreich’. Under England and Wales is the following:

bq. Ein Verfahren eröffnen bedeutet, dass eine Angelegenheit zur offiziellen Erwägung z. B. einem Staatsanwalt oder einem Gericht vorgelegt wird. Als anhängig bezeichnet man ein Verfahren, das zwar eröffnet wurde, wo die Entscheidung aber noch aussteht. Wenn ein Verfahren nach einem bestimmten Paragraphen eingestellt wird, wurden die Bestimmungen eines bestimmten Gesetzes oder einer Verordnung zugrunde gelegt, um den Vorgang der Entscheidungsfindung in einer Sache abzubrechen. Bei einem beschleunigten Verfahren handelt es sich um ein abgekürztes und vereinfachtes Gerichtsverfahren, in dem kleinere Delikte schnell abgeurteilt werden. Beispiel: Vor Ort verhängte Geldstrafen bei Geschwindigkeitsüberschreitung oder Falschparken. In einem objektiven Verfahren ist der Gerichtsbeschluss auf Eigentum statt auf eine Person gerichtet, wenn beispielsweise Waren beschlagnahmt werden.

This is odd: the references to Staatsanwalt and nach einem bestimmten Paragraphen eingestellt don’t seem to be references to England and Wales. If beschleunigtes Verfahren refers to summary proceedings at the magistrates’ court, then it cannot include on-the-spot fines, which were introduced to relieve the pressure on magistrates’ court (see a BBC News article), although a fixed penalty notice, the English equivalent of a Strafbefehl, can still be challenged in court.

And in addition, the explanation of anhängig given in the text is not distinguished from rechtshängig. Then again, both anhängig and rechtshängig are terms associated with civil proceedings, whereas this glossary deals with criminal proceedings.

What I wonder is whether the translators were actually told that the German or French text they were given referred to the situation in England and Wales.

Looking up a few more terms I have been checking dictionaries on recently: manslaughter comes with the translation Totschlag (which is only voluntary manslaughter). The authors state:

bq. Selection of terms
This glossary is based on a summary of common terms used in criminal law. We tried to select terms whose meaning vary in different countries and as such often cause misunderstandings. We aimed at covering as broad a range as possible of the different fields of criminal law. However, we are aware of the fact that a number of terms are not yet included and that it would be highly desirable to continuously expand the project. In cases of words having several meanings we have confined ourselves to the criminal law context in order to avoid duplication with general dictionaries. Those terms whose translations refer to the same meaning in the different countries and do not represent any complicated facts, have been entered with translations but without any comment.

But it has been completely overlooked that involuntary manslaughter is certainly not Totschlag.

Arson comes with definitions which do not really bring out the fact that in Germany, Brandstiftung can be negligent, although the text on England and Wales does say ‘intentionally or recklessly’. It would be unfair to judge the glossary on its treatment of libel, but the German definition seems to be missing here:

bq. Situation in Germany:
The intentional violation of someone’s honour will be prosecuted upon a demand for prosecution filed by the injured party. Special types of insult are slander and defamatory libel.

Conclusion: good in parts, but confusing as a whole.

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