(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The annual Public Defender’s Office Report scheduled for release on Sunday reveals the prosecution’s destroying evidence, police violence and other problems, while also praising the state in other areas.
The report also highlights the office’s increasing global presence and influence both in developed countries like the US and in Europe as well as in assisting developing countries’ legal systems.
On the negative side the report blasts the prosecution for destroying evidence after trials are concluded, but often before the appeals process, let alone requests for a retrial have concluded.
This evidentiary destruction makes both appeals and retrials difficult or impossible for defendants who due to lack of finances may not have had competent legal representation their first time through the system.
In particular, the report slams the high echelons of the prosecution for issuing regulations that specifically permit destruction of evidence at a point the public defender considered too early.
Next, the office criticizes police violence and the Police Inspections Department for failing to properly address the issue.
The report asserts that the “number of complaints which are investigated and the number which result in criminal or disciplinary proceedings are relatively low.”
It mentions that the state comptroller reached the same conclusion in a separate report recently issued by his office.
“Police violence against citizens is not a phenomenon that a democratic state can allow,” the report states.
In other areas, it says that far too few prisoners – 13% – are being given the option of rehabilitation.
The public defender contends that this is part of a conceptual problem, in which rehabilitation is often viewed by the state as a reward for good behavior, instead of a first-choice method of reintegrating prisoners into society on a positive path.
The report also cited the overuse of detention against mentally unstable prisoners; the excessive use of criminal processes for lowgrade offenses; placing too many minors in prison due to lack of alternative spaces; and too many prisoners sent to jail for being too poor to pay fines.
On the positive side the report says that, broadly speaking, courts and the prosecution are showing a greater openness to alternate forms of custody to full detention, such as house arrest.
It also notes the Supreme Court decision in June ordering the Prisons Service to make sure every prisoner has 3 square meters of cell space within nine months giving 18 months for prisons to come into full compliance with Israeli and international law on the issue.
That Supreme Court decision came after years of struggle by the Public Defender’s Office regarding the issue.
Representatives of the Public Defender’s Office have visited Liberia and Vietnam to assist those countries in developing a better understanding of defendants’ rights and how to operate their own public defender offices.
Moreover, representatives have attended prominent conferences in San Diego and Europe and have been involved in a resolution adopted by the United Nations to establish an international network of public defenders.
Many of the international activities have been coordinated with the Foreign Ministry and spearheaded by Deputy Chief Public Defender Dr. Anat Horovitz.