Big fine for repentant German prince
26 November 2004 , HANOVER - Prince Ernst August, head of the royal house of Hanover and husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, apologised via a lawyer for two assaults and was fined EUR 445,000 by a German appeal court. The senior descendant of the kings of Hanover, who had previously denied the violence that has brought him the nickname "Prince Basher", was absent from court and a lawyer spoke for him. Presiding judge Klaus-Ulrich Krueger said he was convinced the prince punched a neighbour in a plush K
26 November 2004
HANOVER - Prince Ernst August, head of the royal house of Hanover and husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, apologised via a lawyer for two assaults and was fined EUR 445,000 by a German appeal court.
The senior descendant of the kings of Hanover, who had previously denied the violence that has brought him the nickname "Prince Basher", was absent from court and a lawyer spoke for him.
Presiding judge Klaus-Ulrich Krueger said he was convinced the prince punched a neighbour in a plush Kenyan beach resort with a brass knuckles at least five times while in a drunken and befuddled rage.
"If he forgets again what he's doing, the issue would be whether to have him tested and put in a drying-out centre," the judge said.
Both sides said they were satisfied with the verdict. Once the deadline for appeal expires, the prince will have a criminal record.
The German aristocrat, 50, sent in his apologies for knocking the neighbour to the ground on the Kenyan island of Lamu and kicking a woman photographer in the behind in the Austrian music city of Salzburg after she came up to him and asked for a picture.
Ernst August and Caroline are at war with Europe's supermarket magazines, which photograph and report on all their doings.
Defence lawyer Jochen Heidemeier said the prince was sorry for a kick with a "light patent leather shoe" at the photographer from one of those magazines, Bunte, in 1999.
Prosecutors told the court this admission was sufficient and sought conviction for the more serious Kenya attack only.
Judge Krueger of the state appeal court in Hanover, where Ernst August's ancestors were kings, called the assault on island neighbour Josef Brunlehner, a nightclub owner, a "dreadful, brutal incident" where drink had made the prince less accountable.
Senior prosecutor Rainer Gundlach said that the fine for the Kenya attack, which was keyed to the prince's high income, was just.
"That's an appropriate penalty," agreed defence lawyer Heidemeier in court.
At the original trial in 2001, Ernst August, who reputedly has a fortune worth EUR 600 million, received a suspended eight-month jail term and was fined DEM 500,000 (EUR 255,000). Both sides appealed.
Ernst August's lawyer portrayed the January 2000 assault on Luma as two slaps. He "could not rule out" that there had been "some undefined object" in his hand while doing the hitting.
"He regrets the incident," said Heidemeier. "Alcohol and his high personal excitement led to a state where he lost control."
Brunlehner told the court, "I got punched in the chest and saw a flash of metal in his hand, which I would now describe as brass knuckles." He testified a further blow knocked him to the ground.
He was flown to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa for treatment of chest injuries. A doctor told the court Brunlehner still had a lump the size of an egg in his chest, suggesting a broken rib.
The two men had a history of quarrelling.
The prince has shoved and cursed media people on other occasions. His wife, now known as Princess Caroline of Hanover, scored a court victory against the German press this year with a European tribunal saying she had a right to privacy in public places.
The couple have a stately home near Hamburg and live a jet-set lifestyle.
Prosecutors denied Ernst August's absence from court involved any special treatment. They said that when criminal proceedings were conducted by way of writing, it was not obligatory to appear in person.
A double, Claus Schoenekaes, showed up outside the court to promote his services as a stand-in for the camera-shy prince.
Germany abolished the nobility in 1919, but the former aristocrats kept their titles as multi-word surnames like "Prinz von Hannover".
Under their nation's penal code, Germans can be tried for misdeeds committed abroad.
Subject: German news