By Paul Sandford
One of the most amusing books I have ever read is “The End of a Mission” a satire by Heinrich Böll. Written in 1968 it takes a swipe not only at the legal and military systems of the Federal Republic of Germany but also many of the characters in the book who are portrayed as narrowminded and deeply conservative.
Essentially, “The End of a Mission” gives an account of a serving German army soldier who, assisted by his father, sets fire to a military jeep. Father and son are prosecuted and their case is heard in the small, rather remote town that Böll has unflatteringly portrayed.
Although in reality the accused are guilty, the court sees fit to allocate a very substantial amount of time to their case and takes very detailed evidence from all the interested parties including a police inspector and the accused themselves. The court also listens to turgid, sometimes sycophantic and patently unnecessary legal argument and at the half way point in the book, the first-time reader will be a little bemused.
Towards the end of the book, events take an unexpected twist. Father and son give evidence to the effect that when they set fire to the jeep, it made a noise that they described as “singing”. Equally they graphically describe the aura of the flaming jeep and in mitigation claim that in setting fire to the vehicle they had been embarking on a legitimate artistic exercise. Following these contentions some evidence is taken as to their artistic credentials.
Ultimately, the wrongdoers’ arguments are accepted by the rather pompous, complacent judge who observes legal niceties to the nth degree and although father and son are not completely exonerated, in many respects they are “forgiven”. Only they come out of the book with any real credit and in particular, the legal and judicial characters are implicitly but strenuously criticised, not least because the legal process focuses so heavily on nuances and niceties that it overlooks the seriousness of the crime in question.
The significance of court process should not be underestimated. However, sometimes it seems that as in Boll’s book, due process plays second fiddle to court process. Böll clearly demonstrates that the father and son’s mitigation could have been provided at a much earlier point in the proceedings and that a lot of the evidence that was provided really was superfluous.
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Disputing parties may still need to take some legal advice but they will not generally need to spend inordinate amounts of time and money when so doing. Their lawyers will focus on the legal essentials rather than getting bogged down in fine, possibly inconsequential procedural points.
By using the mediation and facilitated meeting services offered by ASM Plus substantial amounts of money will be saved. A just and fair result (that you might not get from court proceedings) can be achieved in a matter of days rather than months or even years.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.