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Summary of the 2nd Fairy Tale Moot Court organised by ELSA Hannover

Summary of the 2nd Fairy Tale Moot Court organised by ELSA Hannover

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© Behnood Soleimani | Juristische Fakultät Hannover
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Hansel & Gretel - self-defence or intent?

On the 9th of January 2024, the Fairy Tale Moot Court was held for the second time at the Faculty of Law by ELSA and the chair of Prof. Ziemann.

Hansel and Gretel, one of the most famous fairy tales in the world. Translated into many languages and now being tried for the second time at Leibniz Universität Hannover. However, it is not the witch who is on trial, but Hansel and his sister Gretel, charged with offences including damage to property, theft, grievous bodily harm and even attempted murder.

After an extensive plea by the public prosecutor and the defence, Judge Ziemann, chairman of the fairytale court, begins to take evidence. The injured party, Mrs Blocksberg, who suffered severe burns from being pushed into the oven, is asked to take the witness stand and is sworn in. The witch Blocksberg's misunderstood care for the malnourished children Hansel and Gretel on the one hand, contrasts with the deprivation of liberty and the abuse of those same wards on the other. The questions "Are witches even human?" and "Are children part of their basic diet?" are clarified. For the fellow students in the 3rd and 5th semesters, the trial aims to clarify what really happened in the house and where the ominous bone found in the cage came from. Strikingly, the witch Blocksberg's bird is mentioned again and again, which ultimately alerted the police.

The children themselves are called to the witness stand and talk about their difficult childhood and their experiences in the witches' house. The children do not deny the offences per se. The defence's plan: to rely on self-defence in accordance with Section 32 (1) StGB. The children's statements were interrupted by interjections such as "You can't believe these petty criminals!". The trial is in full swing. The prosecution and defence cross-examine the children. The jury reads every word from their lips, which is necessary at times due to the difficult acoustics on the 14th floor.

The youngsters are released from the witness stand and the police commissioner, Mr Kinderschreck, enters the courtroom. Hansel and Gretel's criminal record is consulted, which shows no entries in favour of the defendants. The police officer describes how he arrived at the witch's cottage and found the victim screaming in pain in the oven. The interrogation protocol is read out, in which the children are said to have said: "At last the witch is burning, at last we've done it!". For the public prosecutor's office, this is proof - meanwhile, the defence stumbles.

The evidence also included an expert opinion from Mr Merlin Hexus, who stated that witches exist and that they eat children to conserve energy, and an expert opinion from Dr Medicus, who confirmed that the children were malnourished and confused. This evidence was rounded off with an expert opinion from Mr Holz on the condition of the oven door, which was probably so outdated that it seemed almost inevitable that the witch would escape from it.

The stepmother, Mrs Holzhacker, replaces the inspector on the witness stand and begins by reporting on the childhood of her protégés. They had got into financial difficulties due to inflation, which also manifested itself in their rebellious behaviour. The public prosecutor tries to bring into play the precious stones taken from the witch's cottage. The defence, on the other hand, relies on the testimony of the witness, feels confirmed in the social influence of the accused and makes up ground in the trial. When asked by the defence why the stepmother lured the children into the forest and left them alone in the first place, she refused to testify, invoking Section 136 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the right not to incriminate oneself.

Mr Vogel ends up in the witness chair and reports how he became aware of the witch through her screams and then alerted the police. However, Mr Vogel's "bird-like" perceptions of the crime are questioned. Finally, Mrs Cat, the witch's pet, is summoned. She makes the intriguing statement that children have visited the witch's house several times and that their whereabouts are still unknown.

The initial protests from the auditorium culminate in an uprising by a witch's supporter, who has been campaigning for years against the unequal treatment of mythical creatures. Posters and corresponding chants included. The bailiff makes short work of this and escorts the troublemaker out of the courtroom to the laughter of the almost 100 spectators.

The state of the proceedings seems too confused. The witch is questioned again, but ends up becoming entangled in contradictions and carelessly says that the children who had previously visited her are "in a better place now". The judge closes the hearing of evidence and interrupts the trial for 15 minutes.

The closing arguments resound through the courtroom. The spectators and the jury listen to the final words of this trial. The prosecution is vindicated in its accusations and requests the conviction of the accused children. The defence focuses on the protection of the children and their suffering under the witch's rule. After all, the witch had repeatedly raved about children's bacon, according to Mrs Katze's testimony. The defence remains unimpressed by the prosecution's arguments and requests that the children be acquitted. Hansel and Gretel have the last word and emphasise their fear of death in this situation. In the end, the jury retires to deliberate after the approximately two-hour trial.

The verdict is: 6 votes in favour of conviction and 14 in favour of acquittal of the children. The costs of the trial are imposed on the fabulous state treasury.

In the follow-up discussion with the 15 or so participants in the ELSA Fairytale Moot Court, it becomes clear how much fun the parties had in the preparation and also the trial itself. The prosecution had put so much pressure on the defence that they really had to stay focused in their structure. The authenticity of the individual roles was emphasised by the matching costumes and the audience could also feel the chill of the fairytale forest on their own bodies. A surreal world opened up for the audience between the young public prosecutor with robe and Macbook on the one side and mythical creatures and frightened children on the other. All under the direction of a presiding judge in a white wig. It remains to be seen what a fairytale trial awaits us next year. If you don't want to appear in the courtroom yourself, a seat in the auditorium is definitely recommended!

Written by Simon Weber (Hannover Law Review)

Who or what is ELSA?

ELSA stands for "European Law Students' Association" and is the world's largest association for law students. It was founded in 1981 with the aim of promoting dialogue among young Europeans and facilitating intercultural exchange. Our faculty group in Hanover is part of a network of 60,000 law students at over 400 faculties in 43 different countries. In Germany alone, over 12,500 law students in 43 cities are active in ELSA.

Further information is available at www.elsa-hannover.de and instagram.com/elsa_hannover.

Moot Courts at the Faculty of Law

The Faculty of Law at Leibniz Universität Hannover takes part in numerous national and international moot court competitions and organises its own. You can find more information about the focus of the individual competitions and how you can take part here.

Published by PSR