Police, prosecutors 'close cases without good reason'

State Comptroller says police and state prosecutors decide to close "a significant" portion of cases without good basis.

December 12, 2011 16:10
4 minute read.
Israel Police officer [file]

Israel Police officer 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The police and state prosecutors closed “a significant” portion of criminal cases and chose not to prosecute suspects, despite lacking a good basis for their decision, a report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss found.

The report, based on findings taken from February to August in 2010, criticized police for “closing cases without the proper authority, and said officers “recommended closures in violation of instructions by the attorney general” in some instances.

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Decisions by police to shut 14 percent of cases under the pretext of a lack of public interest did not stand up to criteria, Lindenstrauss said.

In 10% of cases shut by police with the justification of a lack of public interest, evidence was lacking for an indictment, the report said, suggesting that authorities had covered up for their inability to gather sufficient evidence by using the “public interest” clause.

State prosecutors sent 18% of cases they received back to police because evidence was incomplete. In 33% of cases sent back, police never completed the investigations and closed the cases despite requests from prosecutors for more evidence.

“Police misused their authority to close cases due to a lack of public interest,” Lindenstrauss said in the report.

The report also criticized law enforcement bodies for failing to prosecute cases involving drugs for self-use, as stipulated in drug legislation passed in 1985.

Police shut down 37% of drug for self-use cases due to a lack of public interest, the report found. An additional 43% of cases were closed with a warning issued to suspects.

The report also called on the Attorney General’s Office and prosecutors to develop a “central, unified, updated policy” to inform decision-makers when they should shut cases and when to prosecute.

“The policy should reflect today’s reality, and society’s interest,” the report said.

Former attorney-general Menahem Mazuz succeeded only partially in formulating such policies, Lindenstrauss said.

Instructions were lacking on how to proceed in cases involving violence in the streets, instances of road rage, and violence in nightclubs – offenses that “influence the quality of public life,” Lindenstrauss wrote.

In a statement released on Monday afternoon police said the report looked at cases from 2009 and that “the police investigations unit is constantly monitoring the investigations and intelligence branch of the Israel police as part of its annual work plan, with an emphasis on the matter of closing files, and whether or not there are grounds to do so. With violent crimes, the investigations and intelligence branch has laid out guidelines to determine the conditions under which investigations can be closed.”

The statement added that they have decided that repeat drug use offenders will be prosecuted and their cases will not be closed.

The statement said the issue of closing cases has been examined for a long time by Israel Police and that “as part of the goals of police to increase the chances that criminals will be caught, the investigative unit has been appointed to reduce the number of cases where there is no known perpetrator and to significantly increase the number of indictments.”

Police added that they “will closely examine the findings of the report and will implement the appropriate conclusions.”

The Attorney General’s Office issued a lengthy response to the comptroller’s report on Monday, spanning four pages.

In regards to criticism in the report that law enforcement, the attorney general and the State Prosecutor’s Office have not devised a centralized policy for prosecuting offenses, or a legal apparatus that will help come up with this policy, the Attorney General’s office said they agree with the importance of reaching such a centralized policy, saying that it will help reduce the number of cases that are closed without a legal ruling.

The statement said that officials in law enforcement and the state prosecutor’s office are working to expedite legal procedures as much as possible for the sake of the public good, but added that it should not be expected that a universal investigative and prosecutorial policy will be reached for every single offense in the Israeli penal code.

It added that they agree with the comptroller’s assertion that there is a need to examine the current legal guidelines, and to update them as needed. The statement cited recently formulated court guidelines that examined “the serious importance of reducing the requested time for police investigations, the preparation of indictments and the holding of legal proceedings.”

They added that the guidelines are meant to assist in the shortening of the requested time for preparing indictments in the prosecutions office and the police.

That said, they did stipulate that there are cases in which extenuating circumstances will call for them to extend the time needed for making indictments and bringing cases to court.

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