A hedge that has grown too high, unpleasant odours from cigarette smoke or late-night party noise: conflicts between neighbours are nothing new in court. In most cases, the parties end up in civil court to settle their differences of opinion.
In extreme cases, however, the public prosecutor’s office may bring charges.
This was the case with the former national football goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.
The former goalkeeper of the German national team had to answer charges including damage to property (Section 303 (1) StGB) and trespassing (Section 123 (1) StGB) before the Starnberg district court in December 2023.
The actual background to the alleged offence appears quite bizarre, as is often the case in neighbourhood disputes:
Jens Lehmann’s neighbour, Mr Walter Winkelmann, received a call in the summer of 2022 from his son-in-law, who had been keeping an eye on his father-in-law’s garage via surveillance camera and noticed something unusual there.
The surveillance camera showed Lehmann climbing up a scaffold, allegedly to disconnect the camera’s power supply. However, the camera continued to run with residual power and therefore showed Lehmann using a chainsaw on a roof beam in his neighbour’s garage – the video then stopped.
The public prosecutor’s office suspected that Lehmann went into the garage to saw through his neighbour’s roof beam. He is also alleged to have felled a tree on Winkelmann’s property without his consent.
Lehmann claimed that he “just wanted to have a look” at what his neighbour was “actually doing” in the garage. He only had the chainsaw with him because he had previously trimmed a hedge. He had cut down the tree as requested and not against his neighbour’s wishes.
This behaviour appears to have been the latest escalation of a long-standing conflict between the two neighbours. The two parties had previously argued verbally and through the exchange of various written pleadings about the construction of the new garage. This was probably about the (possibly jeopardised) view of Lake Starnberg.
As there had already been three “attacks” on the garage at this time, Winkelmann had felt compelled to install a surveillance camera. The dispute has now been settled under civil law; Winkelmann has received 60,000 euros from Lehmann.
But his neighbour’s accusations are not enough: Lehmann is also accused of insulting a police officer in March 2022 by calling her a “cunning liar” and saying to her that she had a “faulty brain” (insult under Section 185 of the German Criminal Code).
He had also driven out of a car park without paying the parking fee first (attempted fraud pursuant to Sections 263 (1), 22, 23 (1) StGB).
The former national goalkeeper firmly denied all of the public prosecutor’s accusations. In verbose statements, which the judge described as “outrageous stories”, Lehmann had “consistently portrayed himself as a victim of the justice system”. He spoke of character assassination and false accusations against him. In between, Lehmann allegedly asked what was worse: murder or character assassination.
When the judge referred to the personal and financial circumstances of the – in her own words – “unemployed football coach” during the questioning, he asked her in return whether she herself was married.
Despite his defence efforts, Lehmann was sentenced to a fine of 210 daily rates of 2,000 euros each by the Starnberg District Court on 22 December 2023 and is therefore ordered to pay a total of 420,000 euros.
Both the public prosecutor’s office, which had demanded a suspended prison sentence of ten months and a fine of 216,000 euros, and Lehmann have appealed against the judgement. The Munich II Regional Court will therefore have to deal with the neighbourhood chainsaw case in the near future.