The population perceives the increasing number of knife attacks as a threat. The Justice Department rejects heavier sentences – and gives reasons.
According to the federal Justice Department, the series of punishments for bodily injury with a knife is sufficient. A spokesman in Berlin announced this upon request. The ministry had investigated a possible increase after the majority of justice ministers asked for it at their meeting in June 2019.
An increasing number of crimes involving knives were “rightly viewed by the population as a serious threat to their security,” the ministers stated in their joint decision at the time. The Federal Department of Justice is therefore asked to examine “the need to reform the penal provisions for physical injuries committed with a knife to ensure appropriate sanctions for such acts and to send a clear political signal against this crime”.
Tightening would be “problematic in terms of the legal system”
Regarding the outcome of the investigation, a spokesperson for the Federal Justice Department said dangerous bodily harm committed with a knife could already be punishable by up to ten years in prison under the criminal code. Paragraph 224 provides for a term of imprisonment of six months as the minimum sentence. In less serious cases, the fine is between three months and five years. “This gives the courts room to punish these acts of violence consistently and appropriately,” the spokesman said.
It appears “problematic in the legal system” for a heavier punishment for bodily injury with a knife than for an assignment with another weapon or dangerous tool, “for example a broken bottle,” the spokesman explained. “Such an inspection form can also be suitable for causing serious injuries.”
Reliable data is still lacking
In particular, paragraph 224 does not mention knives as a tool, but mentions the use of a “weapon or other dangerous tool”. If the perpetrator agrees to the victim’s possible death, criminal liability for an attempted assassination attempt could also be considered, the spokesman said.
Extensive data is still lacking how often knife attacks occur and whether they increase. So far only individual countries have collected such figures. Germany-wide information should be provided this spring by the police crime statistics for 2020, which will be the first to separately record crimes involving knives.