The number of suspects under the age of 14 is increasing – but the young criminals do not have to answer in court. Criminal defense lawyer Burkhard Benecken explains why he advocates tightening up child criminal law.

Investigators found her body on June 21 between bushes and trees behind a supermarket in Salzgitter. Anastasia, 15, had apparently been suffocated, as the autopsy later revealed. The murder commission arrested two classmates aged 13 and 14 as suspects. An unbridled hatred of the girl is said to have driven the teenager to murder, the Braunschweig public prosecutor reported. However, Anastasia is said to have had no idea of ​​the resentment. Blissfully, she allowed herself to be lured into a deadly trap.

While the 14-year-old accused was being held in custody in a juvenile detention center, his suspected accomplice, who was one year younger, was placed in youth psychiatry. At the age of 13, the latter is still considered under criminal responsibility according to the law. No charge, no trial, no punishment.

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Not an isolated case. The police crime statistics of the Federal Criminal Police Office for 2021 recorded almost 7500 violent crimes by suspects under the age of 14. In the local penal code, younger delinquents do not have to answer in court. That means every 20th violent criminal in Germany goes unpunished. In the corona crisis, the number of cases fell by around ten percent. But in Berlin alone, the rate of violence is rampant at a high level. Almost 30 percent of suspected murderers, manslayers, thugs, robbers or hostage-takers are under 21 years old.

The Cologne police are also noticing a significant increase in violent crime in the under-21 generation during the corona relaxation phase. Especially when it comes to knife attacks. Attacks are increasing in the problem areas of Kalk, Mülheim and Chorweiler. In conflicts, young men are usually too quick to draw stabbing weapons. In 2020 alone, 14 out of 29 cases of murder and manslaughter involved knife attacks. Overall, the police counted 547 knife crimes with 630 victims.

The negative analyzes of the security authorities coincide with my experiences. I’ve been a criminal defense lawyer for almost 20 years, but the current potential for aggression, the escalating willingness to use violence, sometimes stuns me. I recently defended a case in which two teenagers, ages 16 and 17, nearly beat their victim into a coma over $20 with a baseball bat.

Something has changed in our society. The internet, with all its access to violent videos and even beheading clips, seems to be increasingly disinhibiting parts of the younger generation. Nowadays, in a brawl, it’s no longer enough to use your fist, you quickly reach for a knife or a club. It is often considered chic to let the cell phone camera run along with young victims of sexual assaults in order to later brag about the deeds. This is what happened, for example, in the mass rape of a 13-year-old schoolgirl by eight mostly Bulgarian teenagers in April 2018. The abuse video, which can be found on one of the perpetrators’ cell phones, convicts the attackers.

My colleague Hans Reinhardt recently defended a young person who allowed himself to be so incited against his parents via an Internet exchange that he wanted to kill them. Finally, he lived out his violent fantasies with a neighbor. He attacked the woman, stabbed her 40 times and seriously injured her four-year-old daughter. Luckily, the child survived, but the act itself is incredible. I myself defended a 16-year-old Islamist who detonated a bomb in front of a Sikh temple in Essen. Here, too, only three were injured. The youth was radicalized by online jihad propaganda and by radical inciters.

Recently, a 16-year-old neo-Nazi also in Essen planned a massacre at his high school with homemade explosive devices. He will probably have to answer in court soon.

This does not apply to young people aged 12 or 13 who commit robberies or even murder. As happened in Salzgitter in June. These are serious crimes. From my point of view, it cannot be the case that these acts go unpunished and one simply goes about business as usual. After all, the idea of ​​bringing up children behind the legal age of criminal responsibility does not initially play a role for the relatives of the victims. Your child is dead or mentally or physically crippled – sometimes for life.

The legislature has drafted adult and juvenile criminal law, but no child criminal law. Delinquents under the age of 14 are considered to be under criminal responsibility and are therefore not prosecuted. The state is therefore completely helpless, even if, for example, South-Eastern European scammers and burglar clans deliberately send their little offspring to get into the apartments or to rob old people in the grandchild trick.

Often enough, criminal Roma families send the youngsters who are under criminal responsibility in German city centers on stealing trips. If the young pickpockets are caught, they are dealt with by the police, after which the police place them in youth homes. After a few hours you can see the kidnapping children on the street again.

Clients under the age of 14 are only faced with family court measures such as placement in a home or even the appointment of a caregiver, including placement in a psychiatric ward for a while. The deeds are not punished, let alone that the perpetrators have to undergo any unpleasant sanctions.

Whether clan gangsters, murderers, drug lords, rocker gangs or financial smugglers: Burkhard Benecken and Hans Reinhardt, two renowned criminal defense lawyers, have been dealing with the real world of criminals for many years through their work. In cooperation with FOCUS Online, they provide exclusive insights into human abysses in their podcast “Advocates of Evil – Compact” along with a suitable column on the case.

Against this background, I plead for a tightening of children’s criminal law. Similar to the Netherlands, it should already be possible for 12-year-olds to assess their level of maturity with regard to criminal responsibility. It would also be worth considering setting up educational camps based on the US model. Mainly intensive offenders are housed here. In these facilities, the young people have to undergo strict rules, and they are also closely supervised.

I am also calling for schools to have their own subject that deals with violence, drug abuse and social norms at an early age. Perhaps it would make more sense nowadays to deal with these topics in addition to sex education. So far, such aspects have led a rather shadowy existence in school!

The fact is the following: Penne did not prepare you for the dangers of life. Many students experience these factors more in the playground or on the street. What’s the use of religion, English or math if you don’t know that a kick to the head is regularly life-threatening for the other person? The internet and social media in particular often have the effect of violent fire heaters on young people. I’m thinking of cases where young people have practiced how to kill someone else with a single punch. A trend that didn’t exist before. Our society and the legislature must respond accordingly.

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