Brawls in Berlin swimming pools fuel voices of "firm hand"

Brawls in Berlin swimming pools fuel voices of "firm hand"

July 20, 2023, 10:34 AM

July 20, 2023, 10:34 AM

After violent incidents carried out by dozens of young people, this week visitors to the outdoor swimming pools in the German capital have had to show, in order to enter them, their identity document, with their photograph, and their bags have been controlled by teams of newly hired security guards. “We don’t want lawless spaces,” declared the mayor of berlinKai Wegner, in the Kreuzberg Prinzenbad swimming pool.

Frustration among pool staff

Police shut down Columbiabad outdoor pool, in the Neukölln neighborhood (south), after a brawl at the beginning of July. She had to stay closed because too many employees were out sick.

In a letter sent to the management of the Berlin Municipal Swimming Pools (BBB) ​​on June 13, quoted by the Berlin daily tagesspiegelit was claimed that the Columbiabad staff were regularly subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including spitting and insults. Describing the “intolerable scale of events,” the letter said that employees, customers and minorities – particularly trans and queer people – were threatened with increasing violence.

Statistics from the Berlin Police show that in 2022, 57 violent crimes were reported in the open-air swimming pools of the German capital. The outdoor pools in berlin they have banned access to nearly 1,300 people in the last five years; This year, access to 25 has already been prohibited.

Fast track justice?

Following the latest incidents, the new secretary general of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Carsten Linnemann, requested that the perpetrators be prosecuted on the same day as the criminal act. “Anyone who attacks people in an outdoor swimming pool should sit before a judge that same day, and be sentenced. Even on a weekend,” Linnemann told the tabloid. Bild am Sonntag.

The legal policy spokesperson for the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Sonja Eichwede, dismissed the proposal as “pure populism”, arguing that the conservative politician, apparently, “was unaware of the principles of the rule of law and the reality facing the judiciary”.

The German Association of Judges (DRB) also criticized Linnemann’s statements: “It is not very convincing that politicians demand a strong rule of law with a sentence resolved on Sunday, but that from Monday to Saturday they show so little respect,” he told the tagesspiegel DRB spokesman Sven Rebehn.

Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner has already failed in his bid to get an expedited trial to try climate change protesters this year: a judge rejected the request, saying more time was needed to examine the details of the case.

The slowness of Justice

According to Volker Boehme-Nessler, Professor of Public Law at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, introducing a system of “expedited justice” for those accused of violence in outdoor pools it’s not easy.

“We have a rule of law, and typical of the rule of law is that a court has to look at a case very carefully before reaching a verdict,” Boehme-Nessler told DW, warning: “Justice is slow for good reason, so cases are scrutinized thoroughly. It’s better to hear too many witnesses than too few.”

The german law it sometimes grants expedited trials, but only in very limited circumstances. One requirement is that the facts and evidence be absolutely clear. Another is that the potential sentence is less than a year in prison. “However, if 20 young people get into a fight in a swimming pool, things get complicated. (…). There is no way to hold a speedy trial,” says Boehme-Nessler.

Better to invest in conflict management, says expert

Expect occasional skirmishes and altercations at outdoor swimming pools, where there is a high density of young men looking to “make it big” in a confined space, says Thomas Bliesener, a youth crime expert at the Lower Saxony Institute for Criminal Investigation (KFN).

It says there is no evidence to suggest that the threat of fast-track prosecution works as a deterrent. “We know that the threat of punishment doesn’t affect potential offenders very much,” Bliesener explained to DW. At the same time that she warned that “there is a special dynamic in these crimes. (…) And then, if a prosecution were to fail, that could have a boomerang effect, if no one is held accountable: it would embolden [a la gente] to commit more crimes”, he stresses. And he concludes that “it would be more effective to invest in training on conflict management for swimming pool staff”.

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