AG Sets New Rules to Keep Cases From Dragging on

The State Prosecutor's Office will now have a limited amount of time to investigate a case before deciding on whether to indict or not, according to a new directive issued yesterday by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss will issue a report in a few months said to be harshly critical of the long period - sometimes years - that elapses from the time of police investigation to the indictment or dismissal of cases.

Weinstein published a clear timetable yesterday, to go into effect in a year, calling for six months from investigation to indictment or dismissal for lesser crimes, and 12 months, and in special cases 18 months, for more serious crimes.

The guidelines also define which cases should be given priority, such as when a suspect is in custody, when the suspect is a minor, when the prosecution is likely to need more information from the police, and when the case engenders special public interest.

The directives dovetail Weinstein's policy to create procedures for the prosecution that will streamline the criminal justice system.

Miriam Rosenthal, a former Tel Aviv district prosecutor, told Haaretz she has her doubts about the directive. While it is admirable to shorten the time to process a case, she says the average prosecutor, tasked with numerous and varied obligations, may not be able to meet the deadlines.

"For example, the case against former prime minister Ehud Olmert will clearly take a few years and require a number of prosecutors to deal with it exclusively," she says, leaving remaining personnel to take on the work of these prosecutors as well as their own.

"Unfortunately, the attorney general's directive may become a dead letter," Rosenthal said.