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Girl (16) sentenced for classroom stabbing

A 16-year-old girl from Styria who stabbed a classmate in the stomach when she was 14 has been given a three year part-custodial sentence for attempted murder.

Girl (16) sentenced for classroom stabbing
The girl in court in Leoben, Styria. Photo: APA/Gubisch

Her lawyer argued that she acted in self-defence but after hearing from the witnesses none of the eight jurors agreed. The vote was five to three for attempted murder. The defence team plan to appeal the sentence.

The judge ruled that the 16-year-old must serve one year of her sentence in prison, and she has already spent three months of that in pre-trial detention. The remainder of her sentence can be conditional providing that she is on probation and continues with her education. She was also ordered to pay €1,000 compensation to her victim, who suffered serious injuries as a result of the stabbing.

This is the second time the case has come to trial. Initially the girl, then only 14, was charged with intentional aggravated assault. Based on the information available the judge ruled that she was not responsible – but the case was later handed over to be tried by jury.

The accused had started a new school shortly before the incident in May 2013, due to "disciplinary reasons", and she had problems with some of her new classmates, including the victim.

A month-long dispute involving insults, bullying and threats on social networking sites ended when the girl brought a knife to school with her. When one of the boys put her in a headlock she stabbed him. The prosecution said that her response was not self-defence as it was disproportionate and she had obviously meant to harm him as she had brought the knife to school after being threatened on Facebook.

The defence argued that the boy had kicked the girl in the stomach and then jumped on her chair and grabbed her in a headlock – and that she feared he was going to choke her to death.

The victim refused to testify before the judge but in police interviews he had admitted that he had written death threats to the girl but that he had never been serious.

Psychiatric experts testified that the 16-year-old girl had a "social behaviour disorder" and was unable to fit in at school.

She is currently living with her grandparents and continuing her education at home.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

It’s always good to know your legal rights when living as a foreigner in Austria - including if you get in trouble with the police.

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Getting arrested is probably not high up on a list of must-dos for international residents in Austria, but it’s not a bad idea to know what would happen if you did.

In a nutshell, the process in Austria is similar to most other countries in that you have to be suspected of committing a crime to be arrested.

But what happens next? What are your rights? And how long can someone be held in custody?

Here’s what you need to know.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: What cyclists and drivers in Austria need to know about new rules

When can someone be arrested in Austria?

If someone is suspected of being a criminal, they can be arrested by the police and taken to a police station for questioning. 

Under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, suspects must be informed of their rights as soon as possible, or at the very least before being interrogated by the police.

They also have a right to remain silent or to make a statement, as well as consult a lawyer.

According to Vienna-based attorney Evert Vastenburg, the initial detainment after arrest can last up to 48 hours while a judge decides whether a person should remain in custody or not.

A suspect can then be released on bail or under certain conditions, such as handing over a passport to police.

However, those suspected of serious crimes that typically lead to a prison sentence of 10 years or more (if found guilty) are almost always remanded in custody.

READ MORE: Austria wary of cyber attacks after personal data of foreign residents leaked online

When is someone remanded in custody?

To be refused bail and remanded in custody, there must be serious suspicion that another crime could be committed. 

The judge also must believe there is no other way to deal with the suspect. For example, he/she needs to be readily available to the authorities for questioning.

Another valid reason to keep someone in custody past the initial 48 hours is the risk of someone absconding. In fact, Vastenburg says a flight risk is often assumed with people that do not live and work in Austria.

Other reasons to deny a suspect release are a risk that evidence will be destroyed, witnesses will be contacted, or there is a possibility that further crimes will be committed.

What happens if bail is denied?

If bail is denied and a person must be held in custody for more than 48 hours, they have to be legally represented by a lawyer.

If a suspect can’t afford to hire a lawyer, they will be appointed a Verfahrenshilfe (public defender) by the state.

The case will be then reviewed by a judge on a regular basis to decide if custody should continue.

The first review will take place after 14 days, then at one month and every two months, but a suspect can petition for release at any time.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

How many foreigners are in Austrian prisons?

According to data from the Austrian Judiciary, the number of foreigners in Austrian jails as of June 1st 2022 was 4,332 – almost 50 percent of all prisoners.

In relation to the statistics, the Austrian Judiciary states: “The high proportion of foreigners is one of many challenges for the Austrian penal system. 

“In particular, with regard to successful rehabilitation, the fastest possible transfer to the countries of origin is encouraged.

The most common nationality of foreign prisoners in Austria is Romanian, followed by people from the former Yugoslavian states, Hungary, Nigeria and Turkey.

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