What is criminal misunderstanding

The day was only a few hours old when two young men clashed in a refugee shelter in the Dachau district. The two Nigerians live together in a very small space, a curtain separates their room in the middle and simulates something like privacy. On this Saturday, one of the residents, a 25-year-old, comes home at one o'clock. He turns on the light in the room and lets music play. The other, a 24-year-old, is already in bed. He wants to sleep, he has to get up early in the morning. So he turns the light off again. That in turn bothers the 25-year-old. In the dark there is a scramble, both men collide with their heads. In the end, the police come and take up the matter.

That night was several months ago. Now the roommates are sitting across from each other in the meeting room of the district court in Dachau. The 25-year-old in the dock, he has to answer for assault. He is said to have given his roommate a headbeat. The 24-year-old is on the witness stand, he now lives in a different accommodation.

The past few months have left their mark on those involved. In particular, the accused seems worn out and over-night. Although the trial doesn't start until eleven o'clock that day, Judge Christian Calame sees the 25-year-old sitting in front of the court at seven o'clock. Neither of the Nigerians expected that there would be a trial. They can't stand each other, that becomes clear. But even the 24-year-old doesn't want his old roommate to be prosecuted. Even Calame does not see any bodily harm here after hearing the statements of the men. He eventually dropped the case because the offense was minor. The state treasury bears the costs. The judge seems a little annoyed. "As is so often the case, it turns out differently than what the police recorded," he says.

The two men can communicate in German, but when it comes to the details, it becomes difficult. Calame therefore wants them to testify in English. There is an interpreter at the hearing who translates. When the 24-year-old testified to the police that evening, an interpreter was missing. And communication problems may also have been the reason that there was even a trial for bodily harm. Because according to a police report, the 24-year-old is said to have said that the 25-year-old should have given him a head butt, which left him with a wound. In court, the defendant says that the head nut was "fictitious". And the 24-year-old can't remember what he said either. Yes, the 25-year-old was drunk and angry. He hit his forehead, but it was dark in the room. He did not have a bleeding wound. For Calame this is no assault. He ends the negotiation. As both men unanimously report, the argument shifts to the stairwell of the accommodation on the evening in question. At some point, the 24-year-old calls the police, who finally come and arbitrate.