Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch warned yesterday that the ongoing prosecutors strike was causing "grave damage" to the criminal justice system.
"Since the strike began, it has been impossible to conduct hearings on many cases that have been on the docket for some time," she said during an appearance yesterday at a jurists' conference in Haifa.
"The consequences of the damage wrought by the strike cannot be summed up in this or that particular case, but we are expected to feel the impact this strike has had on the courts for quite some time," Beinisch said. "The faster that both sides work to bring about a resolution, the better we'll be able to minimize the damage. The courts and the judges are helpless in this situation."
"It is our duty to warn of this dire situation," she added. "Our job is to continue to do everything we can to make the system work, even under these difficult circumstances which have been imposed on us."
Prosecutors have become increasingly critical of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman for not issuing an expression of support for their cause. Neeman has demanded that the prosecutors put an end to the strike and allow him to help them to negotiate a settlement with the Finance Ministry.
He recently told the Knesset Finance Committee that he had discouraged the prosecutors from striking, but once the work stoppage was declared, the justice minister said he had no choice but to refrain from intervening.
With no end in sight, police have also refrained from arresting known criminals who are thought to pose a danger to the public due to the prosecutors strike. The work stoppage has effectively turned the courts into a revolving door for those alleged to have committed crimes including robbery, rape and assault.
Investigators in all police districts who have already gathered evidence via surveillance and undercover operations cannot go through with the arrest of their target, who would then be put back on the street by the paralyzed court system.
A Ramle court yesterday released a resident of Taibeh who had been arrested for allegedly dealing in illegally obtained weapons. The suspect's arrest required painstaking investigative work by undercover officers that required extensive resources.
Police officials said they are now awaiting the end of the strike before resuming their arrests.
The central investigative unit at Tel Aviv District Police has reportedly made recent progress on three major cases. The officers have worked undercover gathering evidence against numerous individuals suspected of theft and extortion. But due to the strike, investigators know that the arrest of these figures will not yield any results as the courts would simply place them back on the street. Police officers said the situation would also compromise any future efforts to probe their activities and arrest additional suspects in the case.
Last week, undercover narcotics officers from the Tel Aviv District Police arrested a 30-year-old woman accused of importing significant quantities of drugs from India.
Detectives discovered a few kilograms worth of drugs in her home, in addition to other pieces of evidence that were sufficient to warrant an indictment. The suspect confessed to the crime, but the prosecutors strike forced police to bring the lesser charge of drug possession rather than trafficking.
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