Flawed Police Investigation Led to Dangerous Driver's Acquittal

A man charged with endangering life and grievous bodily harm while driving was acquitted in court yesterday due to the police's shortcomings in the investigation.

"The police failed to take steps that could have either removed all suspicion against the defendant or refute his story," Nazareth District Court Judge Ester Hellman-Nussbo wrote in her verdict.

Ahmed Shalabi, of Iksal village near Nazareth, was charged with dangerous driving and deliberately causing grievous bodily harm while trying to flee from police in January 2009. The indictment said he was asked to stop while driving near his village by a police vehicle, but fled instead. In so doing he deliberately crashed into the police car, injuring a policeman.

He allegedly continued driving wildly, hitting another car in the village before stopping and fleeing from the vehicle.

Shalabi, who was also charged with driving without a license and obstructing a police officer from carrying out his duty, denied the charges and said he was in Eilat that day, laying tiles.

The car Shalabi allegedly drove was registered to another man. But the police did not summon the registered car owner for questioning or take a proper statement from him. They merely telephoned the man, who said he had sold the car. The police did not produce any evidence as to the car's buyer in court, although the seller had his cellphone number.

The police did not take fingerprints or DNA samples from the fleeing car, the judge wrote. They also failed to examine the defendant's statement about trading in the car, or to trace the car owner's identity via his cellphone number.

The defendant, Shalabi, said it was not his cellphone number. Yet no attempt was made to trace the phone owner or to associate it with the defendant, the judge wrote.