Year-end notes 3


Continuing the topic of the dangers of New Year’s Eve fireworks in Germany, it’s been reported that a fire started by some kind of fireworks at Krefeld Zoo burnt down the Monkey House and killed about 30 animals, including orang-utans, gorillas and a chimpanzee (two chimpanzees survived).

The later reports say that the fire was started by three women, a 60-year-old woman from Krefeld and her two daughters, who have handed themselves in. They set off sky lanterns (Himmelslaternen) which they had bought on the internet. They didn’t know these were banned. They handed themselves in and face a potential penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.

The offence is described in the UK press as negligent arson. Perhaps one might say ‘starting a fire by negligence’, since the word ‘arson’ in English usage and law really suggests deliberate action. I have lose my copy of Bohlander’s Principles of Criminal Law, despite it being one of my go-to books, so all I have is a photocopy of the very old book on Criminal Law by E. J. Cohn – still very useful, even though the law has changed a bit since then.

Lighting sky lanterns has been forbidden (verboten) since 2009. But they can be bought. It seems a matter for the Länder to each decide whether they may be used with a permit. Their danger is that once lit, the person releasing them cannot control where they fly (depends on wind and other factors) or how long they burn, unlike in the case of a rocket. Unheilsbringer Himmelslaterne: Verboten, aber im Verkauf.

8 thoughts on “Year-end notes 3

  1. – which begs the question of the English title of die Brandstifter by Swiss maestro Max Frisch and that had been set German A-level reading in ‘my day’ over half a century ago and that is still an (AUT Matura = DEU Abi students’) sell-out in Vienna whenever put on:
    the Fire-Raisers, Fire-Starters (an unfortunate title clash with the late Keith Flint’s British hit single, whilst your translation is better than the UK press, Margaret) and – as expertly performed in English (cf. die Blechtrommel by the Berliner Ensemble at Notting Hill Gate end of next month) by my A-level contemporaries at another school in mid-Surrey and billed as the Arsonists.

    PS E.J. Cohen’s two (?) slim volumes of the Manual of German Law, as covered by Transblawg about 10 years ago, and once kept in the Uni. and at the Goethe Institute Library in Kensington, had also been set reading for us students of yesteryear.

  2. There you are, Adrian! I forgot that one, but at King’s we used to put on plays from the A Level syllabuses and I was actually a fireman ! in Biedermann (otherwise there were few women’s parts – we didn’t talk about firefighters so much in those days).
    I see that the National Theatre has The Visit on from 31 January – Claire Zachanassian moved to New York, I think.
    Thanks very much for the Berliner Ensemble reference. I have seen their surtitles in Berlin, and I went on a tour of the theatre guided by one of Brecht’s original actors. Great stuff.

  3. Cohn is still useful, isn’t he? I picked up the two volumes second-hand about 1980. I also have a photocopy of his book on English criminal law.

  4. Thanks, Margaret, for your ‘offer’ of a photocopy – rather than a laborious scan-in – of English Criminal Law – that I, as a post-1968 UK Theft Act student, would be interested in if – or provided always that – the terminology has gone from US-type misdemeano(u)rs and (50 Cent ‘gangsta’ rapper-sung) felonies to UK non-serious, non-arrestable offenc/ses or Canadian-type summary and indictable

  5. Obviously I shouldn’t have mentioned I have a photocopy, as I did not have the book and this is all public. It’s unfortunate we have all these resources and we have no time in our old age to read them. Then there’s Helmut Weber, Einführung in das schottische Recht. All these wonderful things there is no point my copying for you! (Fujitsu Scansnap is very fast ) – seems to be about 70 pages.I think it was part of an earlier work of Cohn’s.
    It dates from when Übertretungsn were still around, very old. Verbrechten are serious offences, Vergehen offences of moderate gravity and Übertretungen are petty offences.

  6. Just a quick point here: in Scots Law there is no such offence as “Arson”. The nearest equivalent is the common law crime of “Wilful fire-raising” or alternatively “Culpable and reckless fire-raising”. The National Records of Scotland website explains the difference as follows:

    Wilful fire-raising (also: Fire-raising; Culpable and reckless fire-raising)
    Deliberate or reckless burning of another’s property. The gravity depends upon whether the act was done recklessly or wilfully.

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