Knesset State Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) said on Monday that judges’ merciful attitudes toward gas offenders lead to cruelty to children.

This statement came in light of the Jerusalem gas explosion as well as the Acre explosion on Monday, which may have also been caused by a gas leak, and a police report that the courts have dealt with gas offenders leniently.

The report showed that out of dozens of gas offenders only one was sent to prison.

The police said that those convicted of stealing gas containers, who use gas in an unlicensed manner and sell it without a permit, are getting sentences of community service instead of the two years of prison time that the law authorizes for their offenses.

The hearing came following the recent gas explosion disasters as well as a recent hard-hitting report by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on problems related to the state’s inspection and regulation of gas issues.

Referring to the report and recent disasters, Cohen said “a disaster like this could happen at any time and in any place.”

Cohen said that the state of affairs described in the report indicated that nothing had changed in the years since he had held a hearing on the issue, when he was chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee.

On specific changes, he suggested legislating minimum sentencing guidelines for violators so that judges could not give lenient sentences.

In light of the Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry report, which showed less than 200 gas safety incidents whilst the Fire Department reported over 8,000 of such incidents, he said that various state authorities needed to cooperate better.

MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) warned that “before we worry about the assassinations in the underworld – we should be treating every gas balloon” as if it’s a potential explosive device near each house.

He said that many gas balloons are exposed and that “any terrorist can approach them and ignite them.”

Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom deflected criticism of his ministry, saying that better controls on gas must be enforced by those selling gas.

He said that a new Knesset bill might empower citizens to decide on their gas provider instead of leaving the decision to the builder, and called on the Justice Ministry to declare theft of gas a more serious form of theft.

Justice Ministry representative Oren Tamir resisted the pressure for minimum sentencing guidelines for judges, saying judges needed discretion to balance public safety with the individual circumstances of each case.

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