Wooden block killing/Holzklotz-Tötung

A few days ago, near Oldenburg, a 33-year-old woman died when the car she was a passenger in was hit by a 6-kilo lump of wood dropped from a motorway bridge .

A drawing of a group of young people who were near the bridge at the time has been widely circulated today and huge numbers of police are searching for the perpetrator or perpetrators.

I suppose whoever did it did not expect the consequences.

It reminds me of the English case of Hancock and Shankland. They were striking miners and during the strike they dropped a larger concrete block – 21 kg apparently – from a motorway bridge, apparently to stop a taxi taking strike breakers to work. The taxi driver was killed.

They were convicted of murder, but on appeal the sentence was reduced to manslaughter (I think this was involuntary manslaughter, that is, fahrlässige Tötung, not voluntary manslaughter or Totschlag). This was because the English definition of murder includes the possibility of carrying out an act the natural consequence of which is death, and the court – the Court of Appeal and later the House of Lords too – did not think that death was a natural consequence.

Wikipedia has the story.

4 thoughts on “Wooden block killing/Holzklotz-Tötung

  1. Nice vol. vs. invol. distinction drawn in your German translations.

    I was also reminded of the R v. Hancock & Shankland case of over 20 years ago, but from the angle of foresight of harm and oblique intent – which you touch on with your consequences comment.

    The line of cases goes back to DPP vs. Smith 1961 with the policeman hanging on to the bonnet of a run-away driver, spawning the resultant Criminal Justice Act 1967 – news of both of which does not seem to have reached Criminal Law Chambers off Chancery Lane.

  2. Though I feel Hancock & Shankland needs to be distunguished from this case. The miners had a clear and limited intent, i.e. to stop the strike breakers in that particular car.
    Whereas whoever dropped the wooden block here cannot have had any other idea than at least cause any passing car to drive around the block once it is dopped on the road.

    • Der Rufer: That’s why I mentioned that intention in my very brief account. I still don’t think it makes that much difference. What might make more difference is the different definitions of murder in German and English law. The courts have defined malice aforethought in a particular way.

  3. der Rufer – it is unlikely that even morons or youths spaced-out on drugs and/or alcohol would, subjectively, have had the intention of forcing an impromptu obstacle race on a motorway, directly below, with cars travelling top-speed.

    The ultimate consequences of their action, as borne out by a long line of English cases up to and after H&S, would still have been objectively clear.

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