Hearings on extending the detention of suspects in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court takes, on average, six minutes and 42 seconds, an extensive study by Mutagim Research Institute has found. The results of the study were submitted earlier this week to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
According to the study, which examined 3,040 randomly selected hearings that took place on Mondays over the past four years, 80 percent of police requests to extend the detention of suspects were upheld by the court, and 351 hearings to extend the detention of suspects lasted less than two minutes.
The research was conducted to assess the differences between an ordinary hearing, in which the suspect is present in the courtroom, and a pilot program recently instituted in which the hearing is conducted via video conferencing, without the suspect physically present in the courtroom. The findings show that among those suspects whose hearing was held via video conferencing reported, a larger percentage were allowed to make a statement to the court.
Attorneys often protest the assembly line nature of these hearings, saying judges have little time to study the cases thoroughly and do not allow detainees a proper due process. The study found that some hearings lasted as little as a minute or less. On the other end of the spectrum, however, was a hearing held for three detainees at once that lasted 138 minutes.
According to the findings, the court ordered suspects released on bail only in 15 percent of the cases and enabled alternatives to detention - such as house arrest - in only 6 percent of the cases.
Dr. Yoav Sapir, the deputy chief public defender, told Haaretz that the data show that many detentions could be prevented if suspects could be released at the police station, instead of spending a night in custody to be released on bail by the court the next morning.
"The data show that in a third of all cases people are brought in to be bailed out, in flash hearings," Sapir said. "The public defender's office has fought this method for two years, and only in 2011 was a partial solution found."
Sapir noted that the number of detentions has increased over time but most of those detained are not indicted, which means they have been subjected to an unnecessary denial of their liberties. "The courts should tighten their monitoring of detentions," he said. "Detention is traumatic and is more than just limitations on liberty."
The Knesset committee is scheduled to discuss hearings by video conferencing tomorrow.
In January 2007, the Knesset passed legislation that would allow remand hearings through video conferencing on a trial basis. The legislation stipulated that the process would be studied to determine whether it was a preferable alternative and whether it involved an infringement of the fundamental rights of detainees.
The study found no major difference, although 71 percent of the detainees who hearings were conducted via video conferencing said they were allowed to make a statement to the judge, as opposed to only 32 percent of those physically present in the courtroom.
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