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Judge says German justice system is losing credibility

District Judge Stephan Zantke made headlines last December in Germany and his new book details biased judgement in the upper courts and an overburdened justice system. But some argue that the judge is part of the problem.

Published: October 9, 2018, 11:12 am

    A question that the judge from Zwickau had asked an accused asylum seeker, earned him the nickname Judge “Straightforward”. Zantke asked the migrant multiple offender: “If Germany is so shitty, why are you here?”

    The migrant suspect had insulted others as “Nazis” and “shit Germans” during a court case of property damage and personal injury.

    A year later, the judge has now published a book in which he describes this case as well as others. The question that made the judge famous, is also the title of his new book. He told German news outlet MDR that this trial was nothing special for him.

    “It is neither a very special case, nor a case – as is most cases – which I have judged, that somehow stand out.” The migrant serial offender had to spend only one night in police custody. It sounds incomprehensible, but it is German law, Stephan Zantke says.

    “I’m a normal judge, but one with a purpose. And the purpose is called consequence. This means that I am not prepared to give a suspect, who has repeatedly received parole, a chance to fail again – because he has already,” he told Bild newspaper.

    It is no exception that German regional courts often give milder judgments than local courts. “That happens daily. The district courts have a partially incomprehensible leniency that can interfere with the belief in a just punishment of the perpetrators in the population,” says Zantke.

    Above all, he criticises probation sentences that are repeatedly issued. “Next time there will be no probation – who should actually believe that? The offender? The defender? The prosecutor, who had demanded an imprisonment to be carried out? Or even the victims, who will meet the same culprit again on the street?”

    If such mild judgments in the upper courts are the order of the day in Germany, “then one can lose faith in justice”.

    The Zwickau judge also spoke out against austerity. “The judiciary has always been neglected,” he said. “If a lawsuit is left unfinished because there are not enough judges and the few [remaining] judges have to release prisoners for overdue deadlines, that’s a scandal to me.”

    Even though a migrant criminal had violently raped a young German medical student and tried to infect her with Hepatitis C, the same Zwickau judge had only given him 3 years and 10 months in prison, with some reports noting that it means “he’ll probably serve two [years]”.

    According to reports “every policeman in Zwickau knows him”, a 38-year-old Pakistani migrant who had deliberately bitten a 19-year-old German woman while raping her in order to infect her with Hepatitis C. And despite his heinous crime, he will not be deported either.

    The Pakistani with multiple criminal convictions who three months previously had been firing a blank pistol around in Zwickau city centre, pushed his victim into the smoking room, struck her in the face, and bit her deliberately in the lips. “He wanted to infect her with his virus,” said the assistant prosecutor Diana Enzinger-Leichsenring.

    But according to the Zwickau judge Zantke, justice was served.

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