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CRIME

Austrian Josef Fritzl to be released to ‘normal prison’

Josef Fritzl, was imprisoned in 2009 for the rape and unlawful detention of his daughter in the Austrian village of Amstetten, has been released from psychiatric detention on Wednesday and is set to serve in a standard prison. Fritzl is eligible for early release in 2023.

A file picture from 2009 shows Austrian Josef Fritzl before trial. Photo: SAMUEL KUBANI / AFP
A file picture from 2009 shows Austrian Josef Fritzl before trial. Photo: SAMUEL KUBANI / AFP

When making the decision, the Krems Regional Court held that Fritzl no longer posed any danger and could therefore be kept in a standard jail. 

Fritzl, who changed his name to Mayrhoff while in prison, was jailed in 2009 for several crimes including the unlawful imprisonment and rape of his daughter Elizabeth, who bore him seven children in a specially built soundproof basement. 

One of the children, a boy, died shortly after birth in 1996, upon which Fritzl burnt his body. 

Court spokesman Ferdinand Schuster told Austrian media on Wednesday that the decision was subject to an appeal to the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Vienna. 

Fritzl’s release into the mainstream prison system was decided upon by a three-judge panel under a probation period of ten years. 

The panel made its decision based on a mental health assessment produced in March. 

Fritzl stood trial in 2008 for the crimes, having been deemed sane and therefore faced mainstream charges. 

Fritzl is eligible for release as early as 2023 after receiving a life sentence. 

Austrian media pointed out on Wednesday that a 2023 release would see him serve nine years less than his daughter Elizabeth spent in Josef’s basement dungeon. 

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CRIME

Austria to seize cars from illegal road racers

Austria announced plans on Monday to toughen legislation looking to curb illegal street races in the country including the seizure of vehicles.

Austria to seize cars from illegal road racers

“If you don’t have a car anymore, you can’t race”, Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) said on Monday, when the government announced plans to toughen legislation against illegal street racing. 

According to the government’s plans, drivers in Austria who are found guilty of extreme speeding will have their cars seized and auctioned off. The administration wants to deter what they called “boy racers” by threatening to take away their prize possession.

For many speedsters, their cars become “part of their identity”, the minister said.

“There is a speed at which the car becomes a weapon,” Gewessler said. The cars would be taken away from speeders “immediately and permanently”.

The government said they are trying to bring illegal street races and other cases of extreme speeding under control. They may seem rare in Austria, but they cause deaths, sometimes involving innocent bystanders.

READ ALSO: Austrian citizenship: Can you be rejected because of a driving offence?

If someone drives more than 60 kilometres per hour above the speed limit within a local area – or 70 kilometres per hour outside it – the car will, in future, be confiscated by the police directly on the spot. The driver’s licence will also be taken away.

Within two weeks, the respective district administrative authorities will then check whether it is a repeat offence. If there has already been an extreme speeding offence in the past, the vehicle will be taken away and auctioned off.

If someone drives more than 80 or 90 kilometres per hour above the speed limit, the car will be confiscated permanently on the first offence.

“At the speeds we’re talking about here, no one is in control on the roads anymore.” Gewessler expects 400 to 450 people a year to lose their vehicles.

READ ALSO: Does Austria have a street car racing problem?

In addition to confiscation, the Driving Licence Act stipulates that in case of a speeding offence of more than 40 km/h in urban areas or 50 km/h outside urban areas, the driving licence must, in any case, be temporarily confiscated. 

With this, even if the car is leased or borrowed (which would prevent authorities from confiscating and auctioning it off), the racer will nevertheless not be allowed to drive.

Once the cars are auctioned off, 70 percent of the proceeds will go to the Road Safety Fund and 30 percent to the relevant local authority. Forfeiture of an impounded vehicle is in addition to a fine.

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