Police chief pushes in Knesset c’tee to keep intel from defense lawyers

Bar association says bill should cause us to tremble.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich‏ (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich‏
Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich on Monday urged the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee to adopt a bill to allow law enforcement authorities to decide what intelligence evidence may be given to defendants in their defense.
Under the law, the prosecution must provide defendants with all relevant evidence to their defense. This has led to complaints that sometimes intelligence sources are thereby revealed by court order or by accident, and that manpower and state funds are wasted on transferring material or filing motions to obtain a court order that specific evidence must remain classified.
Alsheich told the committee that without a change in the law, the drain in resources means the police are spending most of their time trying to help the prosecution get convictions while protecting their intelligence sources, instead of working to prevent the next crime.
In contrast, he said the police should spend 80 percent of its energy on stopping crime.
Alsheich’s bill is modified from an earlier proposal, saying that defendants would still be entitled to see all evidence connected to their indictment.
The watered down bill seems to have garnered the support of many committee members, including chairman Nissan Slomiansky, the Israel Bar Association, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Association for Civil Rights. However, Meretz MK Michal Rozin still objected.
Nevertheless, the Bar Association said there are three reasons to react “with trembling” to calls to reduce the rights of defendants to defend themselves by limiting what evidence they get to see. It mentioned a massive gap in power and information between the law enforcement authorities and defense lawyers, along with an increasing possibility of wrongful convictions of innocent persons.
It noted further that the prosecution has an incentive to underplay what evidence might relate to the indictment, as it is rewarded more for convictions.
Finally, the Bar Association said that no one has explained the need for a change. It added that leaks of intelligence sources should be stopped by police being more careful, not by changing the entire law, and saving time and money cannot be the basis for harming defendants’ fundamental right to defending themselves.