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Wind of justice: Austrian man fined for farting on police has sentence reduced on appeal

The 500 fine issued by Vienna police for a "provocative" fart made headlines around the world last year.

People in the Stadt Park in Vienna
JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The Viennese man was given the fine after “letting wind escape loudly” last June, following an identity check by police in a park Der Standard newspaper reports. 

The news made headlines across the world, forcing Vienna police to issue a clarification on social media that “of course no-one will be reported for accidentally ‘letting one go’ once”.

The man had challenged the fine, saying although he had farted, this was a “biological process”, which would have amounted to freedom of expression even if it had been done deliberately. 

The administrative court reduced the penalty from €500 euros to €100 euros, pointing to the man’s lack of a criminal record while saying he only had “average” culpability of the offence

Friends ‘laughed and made jokes’

The Vienna Regional Administrative Court stated in its ruling that the man was on a park bench, when he lifted his buttocks and let the wind escape in a way which was perceived by everyone present.

The man’s friends laughed and joked about the incident.

According to the administrative court, the basic right to freedom of communication is not limited to a certain form of communication, but a statement must also have a certain “communicative content”.

However, this is not the case with “pure body stimuli”, the court said, according to the newspaper report.

Makes state order ‘ridiculous’

It concluded even if it were accepting that farting were to accept an act of communication, the wind would still be a “form of expression that transcends the boundaries of decency”. 

The court added “form of action seems suitable to completely undermine any state order and to make it ridiculous”, according to Der Standard newspaper. 

The paper also features comments from Paul Eberstaller, university assistant at the Juridicum, who says the ruling shows how problematic the offence of decency is, particularly when comparing public and private life. 

“If a private person had been a ‘victim’ in this case, public decency would not be violated. In addition, the authorities would probably not pursue complaints from private individuals. At the same time, legal protection is often lacking in the event of actual problems,” he said. 

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VIENNA

Why does Vienna’s waste department have a helicopter and a military plane?

Not every waste management department in the world gets a helicopter or military aircraft, but Austria's MA 48 isn't every waste management department. Here's why you may have seen the familiar orange colours on helicopters and military planes.

Why does Vienna's waste department have a helicopter and a military plane?

The Viennese municipal waste department, known as MA48, is undoubtedly a big part of daily life in the Austrian capital – and not only for practical reasons.

Every Viennese will be familiar with the department’s extensive public relations campaigns, from contests for choosing funny one-liners for its trash cans to weekend-long outdoor events showing kids (and grownups) the importance of the proper waste collection and circular economy.

READ ALSO: Hasta la mista, baby? How to vote for your favourite Vienna trash can joke

But some of these public relations expenses might be harder to swipe under the carpet as the City of Vienna Court of Audit shone a light on the high costs of some of these actions, according to the daily newspaper Der Standard.

Most impressively, the audit made by request of opposition party FPÖ showed high expenses, including hiring a military aircraft and a helicopter – quite uncommon for a municipal waste department.

The MA 48 justifies the expenses by saying the aircraft served to attract apprentices and for public relations.

The SPÖ party, which governs Vienna, said that the department achieved “a maximum effect with a minimum budget with its public relations work” and “the advertising measures served to educate citizens and thus protect the environment.”, according to a press release.

READ ALSO: Why Vienna is a haven for wild animals – and where you can find them

The apprentices during one of Ma 48’s events in Vienna (Copyright: Christian Houdek/PID)

Vienna’s audit court partially understands but still recommended some measures to improve transparency. The PR department of MA 48 will set up a cost centre to improve those issues, according to Der Standard.

The City Audit Office Committee will meet for its periodical review of public expenses on May 19th, when the subject should be further debated.

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