Police learn of restraining orders after men break them

Knesset told by women’s rights lawyer that courts ignore family violence legislation.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
March 9, 2011 04:26
2 minute read.
An abused woman.

abuse_58. (photo credit: Courtesy (illustrative).)

 
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Courts ignore family violence legislation and fail to routinely notify the police of restraining orders against violent men, a prominent women’s rights attorney told members of the Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday.

Na’amat legal counsel Meira Bassok, speaking at a meeting that coincided with International Women’s Day, warned that as a result, the police are not informed that the subject of the complaint must leave the house, or that they are supposed to take away any firearms in his possession. In such cases, she said, police are only made aware of the restraining orders if the woman complains that the man violated the order.

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But Mimi Amsili, the Justice Ministry’s director for civil and family courts, said the court system had already “made changes in the practice, and today, the court secretaries are required to transfer the restraining orders to the relevant police stations.”

The courts send police the orders by fax, Amsili added, and then call to make sure that the fax reached the station.

Amsili’s claims, in turn, were countered by police Lt.- Cmdr. Varda Shaham, who rebutted that “there is no such thing as a “fax to the police,” and you can’t just flood stations with faxes.”

She complained that “there are courts that send us the restraining orders, and there are those that don’t send any.

Sometimes the fax reaches the wrong department.”

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Instead, she suggested, the courts should send the orders as computer files so police can track them.

Ya’acov Amit, the Interior Ministry’s director of firearms licensing, added that for years now, his office had requested that the courts send decisions to confiscate firearms via computer, but that the courts continued to send faxes.

“The court does not always directly request that we deny weapons permits for men who have restraining orders issued against them, in contradiction to what is required by law – but we take the initiative and do it instead,” said Amit.

The ensuing investigations, Shaham told MKs, are often complex, and police detectives face difficult questions, including whether and how to question minors who may have witnessed violence.

Of approximately 3,700 restraining orders issued in 2010, police investigated 750 instances of violent men who violated the orders. In approximately 50 percent of the cases, she said, indictments were eventually filed.

“In recent weeks, we have been exposed to instances of violence and to the negligence of the authorities despite warnings,” said committee chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima). “In at least one of the murders, the murderer was a violent husband who violated a restraining order.

Family violence is not something that begins overnight.”

Hasson added that “without appropriate enforcement, the order has no value. We legislate laws and hope to change a problematic situation, but afterward, in the field test, they dissolve. I demand that in the next two weeks, police representatives meet with Courts Administration head Moshe Gal to create a standard practice for reporting.”

During the hearing, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss called to increase penalties for those convicted of family violence, explaining that he was basing his call on his own experiences as a judge.

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