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Potential consequences for youth and family: 15-year-old admits setting fire in Bad Godesberg

Potential consequences for youth and family : 15-year-old admits setting fire in Bad Godesberg

A burning carpenter's workshop in Bad Godesberg last Saturday resulted in a major deployment of the Bonn fire department. A 15-year-old has now admitted to having started the initial fire. This could have consequences for him and his family

The police were able to report a quick and successful investigation on Wednesday after the fire on Saturday in a carpenter's workshop in Bad Godesberg. According to their statement, a 15-year-old admitted that he had started the fire. Evidence had already emerged from witnesses on Saturday that the fire had spread from a hedge to the premises of the Ungerathen carpentry workshop.

According to information police released on Wednesday, in the course of the investigation they were able to identify a group of youths who are said to have been there on Saturday afternoon where the fire raged shortly afterwards. They reported that a 15-year-old confessed to setting the fire during questioning. In the immediate vicinity of the building complex, he had used a lighter to set fire to a mattress that had been left out as bulky waste. Police say their investigation continues. It is at least a small consolation for the carpenter owning the shop, Jorg Ungerathen. In response to a GA inquiry, he said he had heard about this new information, but he was still in a state of shock. According to police spokesman Robert Scholten, the 15-year-old student has no previous criminal record and for that reason, he was not taken into police custody.

Besides having to process what has happened, there is also now the matter of settling the costs of the damage. But who actually pays when a 15-year-old is responsible?

Parents are liable only under certain circumstances

The public prosecutor's office in Bonn is responsible for the criminal investigation of the incident. "Currently, we assume that the fire in the carpenter's workshop was not deliberately set, but that the fire to the mattress was," said Chief Public Prosecutor Robin Faßbender on Thursday in response to a GA inquiry. Faßbender stressed that criminal and civil law could each come to a different conclusion. From the age of 14, a juvenile is in principle liable to prosecution.

As far as the civil law part is concerned, Florian Höld, specialist lawyer for insurance law, assumes that the fire insurance of the master carpenter will compensate him for the damage and then sue the 15-year-old for the damages.

The parents would only be liable under certain conditions, for example if they had grossly neglected their duty of supervision. With a 15-year-old this is rather not the case. Even if perhaps there is no money to be had from the 15-year-old right now, the insurance company can attain a title which says the claim can be carried out over 30 years. "So if he has money later on, he has to pay," says Höld. The youth could only hope that the liability of his parents - if any - would take over a part of the lawsuit payment if the judges found negligence instead of intent.

No insurance pay-out in the event of deliberate action

According to Kathrin Jarosch of the Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft (GDV) (German Insurance Association) based in Berlin, the insurance company of the carpenter will make an assessment, and pay him a sum of money to cover damages. Most likely, the insurance company will then recover the money from the 15-year-old's family by taking them to court.

It is up to the court to decide how much the plaintiff is awarded. In the case of a judgment which attests to the young person's deliberate intent, no liability insurance is paid. The 15-year-old, or his parents, must then pay for the complete damage. If the court finds negligence for any reason, an insurance company could cover the claimed amount - at least in part. However, Jarosch stressed that in such cases a lot depends on the individual circumstances. This is especially the case with a 15-year-old offender. "It happens again and again that small fires suddenly develop into large fires.”

Orig. text: Silke Elbern, Eric Sommer

Translation: ck