Justice Ministry weighing oversight system for prosecutors

New controller might investigate percentage of cases where prosecution fails to hand over evidence to defense and use of plea bargains.

Moshe Lador 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Moshe Lador 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The top echelon of the Justice Ministry met earlier this week to decide on the format for a body which would oversee the work of the state prosecution.
A Justice Ministry spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post that the participants did not reach a final decision and will meet again to complete their work. Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and State Attorney Moshe Lador are among those who will make the final decision.
Last week, Hebrew University law professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute, submitted to the decisionmakers a report including a recommendation for the kind of institution that he believed should be established.
There was a need for such an institution, wrote Kremnitzer, because there was no one at present who could examine key questions regarding the proper functioning of the prosecution.
Furthermore, pressure for such an institution has grown in the wake of the Haim Ramon case, he continued.
Recently, the State Comptroller’s Office investigated allegations that the police and state prosecution had failed to hand over wiretapped conversations involving former justice minister Ramon to his lawyer during his trial on charges of kissing a female soldier against her will. Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss found that four senior officials were guilty of gross negligence.
Kremnitzer wrote that the solution must properly balance the need for oversight, accountability and transparency of the state prosecution with the need to safeguard its independence from political influence.
He recommended appointing a retired Supreme Court or district court judge to serve as the controller of the prosecution.
The controller would be appointed by the justice minister according to the recommendation of a special committee, headed by a retired Supreme Court justice, established to find appropriate candidates.
This arrangement must be legislated so that the controller’s source of authority would be the law and not the government, Kremnitzer wrote. The law should also determine the controller’s salary to protect his independence from the political echelon.
The controller’s job would be to initiate investigations of the professional functioning of the prosecutors, as opposed to financial issues or issues of bureaucratic inefficiency, which are handled by the state comptroller.
For example, the prosecution controller might investigate the percentage of cases in which the prosecution failed to hand over all the evidence required of it to the defense before the beginning of a trial.
This is what Ramon accused the prosecution of doing in his case, though he claimed the omission was deliberate.
Another issue that could be investigated is the prosecution’s allegedly frequent resort to plea bargains in criminal cases.
The controller would present an annual report to the justice minister and the Knesset, thus enhancing the transparency of the prosecution.
The attorney-general and the controller would also appear before the Knesset to discuss the annual report.
Kremnitzer also recommended that the controller serve as ombudsman to deal with complaints from the public against individual prosecutors.