Sender of suspected mail bomb spared police costs

A court in Germany has ruled that a person who sent a prank package which was falsely suspected of being a mail bomb will not have to pay for the related police operation that followed (25.7.2013, Az. 1 S 733/13).

Suspected of suspected mail bomb spared police costs © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Suspected of suspected mail bomb spared police costs © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Prank mail bomb

The defendant in the case had sent a package to a colleague in 2011. The package had been adorned with a sheet of A4 containing the message “You receive important and secret documents best regards”. The message was signed “Consul”.

The message gave the impression that the package had been sent from an Arab embassy in Berlin. The recipient of the package rang the embassy concerned and was told that no package had been sent. Thinking she had received a mail bomb, the recipient alerted the police who flew in a bomb disposal team by helicopter.

It later became apparent that recipient’s friend had wanted to play a joke on her. The package contained just a plate inscribed with a personal greeting.

The bomb disposal operation cost €3,690 and the police sought compensation from the sender of the package on the grounds of unnecessary instigation of a police operation.

No duty to pay compensation

The administrative court in Mannheim clarified the law in Baden-Württemberg on this topic.

It provides that a person must only pay police costs when through their actions they intentionally cause or knowingly expect a police operation. As a minimum, it must be proven that the sender at least foresaw an operation of this type. A person who gives no thought to the consequences of their actions, or as in this case, does not foresee an extensive police operation, cannot be held accountable.

The court found that the sender had not foreseen a police operation on such a scale and accordingly held that he was not obliged to pay compensation.

It appears that in accordance with current state-level case law, negligent behaviour of such kind is without consequences.

Christian Solmecke ist Partner der Kanzlei WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE und inbesondere in den Bereichen des IT-, des Medien- und des Internetrechts tätig. Darüber hinaus ist er Autor zahlreicher juristischer Fachveröffentlichungen in diesen Bereichen.

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