Public security minister criticizes courts' eagerness to accept plea bargains

Public security minister

The nation's courts are too keen to accept plea bargain arrangements which result in light prison terms for convicts, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said on Saturday in Beersheba. Aharonovitch, who was speaking at the Shabbatarbut Conference held Saturday in the Negev city, directed fierce criticism at the common practice of copping plea bargains between state prosecutors and defendants. The plea bargains were part of the reason for the leniency being shown to convicted felons by the courts, Aharonovitch argued. "I am in favor of not striking any plea bargain with any criminal. I am in favor of full convictions and not shortcuts," Aharonovitch, who is a former deputy police commissioner, said. "Plea bargains are designed to shorten [legal] processes. I don't like that. If a court does not give a criminal the appropriate punishment, it sends a negative message, to criminals and to all those who enforce the law," he added. "I am not satisfied with the lack of severity in punishments for criminals. Clear minimal sentencing must be passed down. Criminals cannot be let of the hook," Aharonovitch said. "The court system is beginning to see that there is a problem here. They see that if they don't support law enforcers, the public will be harmed," he said. Aharonovitch reiterated calls for more resources to be made available to police, and said dozens of police officers are currently under threat from crime bosses, as are judges and senior municipal officials. While organized crime has sustained a "heavy blow, those who cause the greatest amount of damage are street criminals," Aharonovtich said. Addressing efforts by the Tel Aviv Police's Central Unit to track down the gunman responsible for the August 1 double homicide at a Tel Aviv gay youth center, the public security minister said there were "many directions being investigated. I am optimistic and believe there will be a revelation." He also touched on the recent wave of clashes between settlers and security personnel in the West Bank prompted by the government's decision to enforce a settlement construction freeze. The state will "not let off anyone who intends to take the law into their own hands... I hope we don't have to confront the settlers who are dear to me, but anyone who takes the law into their own hands in [blocking] intersections in Judea and Samaria or blocking roads will not be let off," he said. Aharonovitch, a member of the Israel Beitenu party, said he was skeptical that the construction freeze could lead to a diplomatic breakthrough with the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas.