The police broke the law in the arrest and detention of minors in the recent violence in the north in the Arab sector, according to a judge handling the cases. The actions of the police seem to mirror a trend shown by a recent state comptroller’s report on the arrests and processing of suspected youthful offenders.
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Most of the cases – in the dozens – in which the police decided to prosecute minors were brought before Nazareth Youth Magistrate’s Court Judge Ilanit Imber to be remanded, rather than to be released by the officer in charge at the police station as the law allows under certain circumstances.
On the afternoon of November 10, Imber was already hearing her 10th case that day – a 14-year-old boy from an Arab village in the north suspected of participation in rioting. Her ruling in the case showed that she had decided to tackle the issue of the police conduct toward not only that teen, but other cases that had come before her during the recent period of unrest.
“This is a 14-year-old without a criminal record who cooperated with investigators and despite Clause 9 of the Youth Law, his parents were not brought in to sit with him during interrogation as the law requires,” the judge said. Imber added other instances in which the police broke the law in this case, noting that the teen was brought in at night without the presence of a parent and no reason was given for the parents not to be with the teen during questioning. “This is the 10th suspect brought before me in this affair and I see that the conduct of the petitioner [the police] with regard to Clause 9 has become systematic with regard to the abrogation of the right of minors to have their parents present.”
Imber also related to complaints by the young suspects of violence against them by police during their arrest or at the police station. She noted that the police had taken the boy to receive medical care without his parents and without reporting the fact to anyone – also in breach of the law.
“In this case I noticed that the minor had been injured in the hand and had been taken for treatment without the knowledge of the parents and with no relative present during the examination. More seriously, the file contains no mention of this nor a medical certificate that shows that the minor was taken for an examination and the court learned of this from the suspect’s attorney,” Inber ruled.
The Youth Law applies to minors from the age of 12 to 18. Among its provisions, it states that a minor up to the age of 14 can be questioned only until 8 P.M. and over the age of 14 until 10 P.M.
One of the law’s most important clauses is that minors should be arrested and held only as a last resort.
The judge noted that at the time of his arrest, the offenses against the youth were not clearly defined “but rather described in a manner not conforming to the Penal Code.” Inber also said in the case of another minor suspected of illegal assembly in one of the disturbances in the north that the parents had not been informed that he was to be questioned. “This minor has no criminal record and although I believe that the evidence substantiates the suspicions and reason for an arrest, I believe that his case should be differentiated from that of other suspects because his part in the events differed from the rest, and noting the failures in the investigation, I have found it proper to significantly restrict the number of days in custody,” the judge ruled.
In most cases involving minors, according to a state comptroller’s report in May 2014, judges noted that there was a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. However, the judges noted that the police had broken the law during the arrest, which forced the court to release the minors.
According to a state comptroller’s report in 2012, in approximately 3,200 out of 5,038 cases, minors were interrogated without their parents being present. In a sampling of 221 cases, in which minors were interrogated without their parents, 33 percent were between the ages of 12 and 15. In 1,600 cases, the minors were questioned at night. In most of the cases authorization was given to question them beyond permissible hours, but no reason was given for doing so.
In a hearing before Judge Imber, the police representative claimed that they bring to court only minors over 14 years old and only those who do not admit to the charges against them.