Four Haifa Caretakers Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for Elder Abuse

'The light sentence conveys a message of weakness and acceptance regarding assailants of helpless people,' victim's family and lawmaker say

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Elderly caretakers convicted of abuse in Haifa District Court, June 7, 2018.
Elderly caretakers convicted of abuse in Haifa District Court, June 7, 2018.Credit: Rami Shllush
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Four caretakers in an old-age home in Haifa were sentenced to prison terms of up to 18 months on Wednesday for abusing frail residents. The four, who were convicted in February in a plea bargain, will also have to compensate some of their victims by sums of 3,000 – 15,000 shekels ($840 to $4,200).

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Caretakers Hussam Abu Ahmed, Andrei Keis and Peter Goskov were convicted in Haifa’s District Court of abusing a helpless ward and attacking the victim in grievous circumstances. Abu Ahmed and Keis each were sentenced to 18 months in prison and 12 months’ suspended sentence, while Goskov was sentenced to nine months in prison and six months suspended sentence. The head nurse of the frail-care ward, Insa Schneider, was convicted of neglecting patients and failure to report wrongdoings, and sentenced to six months in prison, to be served in community work.

One victim’s family and MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) blasted the extremely lenient sentences and the fact that the management of the institution were not penalized. “The light sentence conveys a message of weakness and acceptance regarding assailants of helpless people,” Shmuli said. “The fact that the managers and owners, who were responsible, got off scot free is also wrong. The Health Ministry must also do some penetrating soul searching. Almost none of what it promised to fix when the abuse was exposed has been done.”

The penalties were lower than those requested by the prosecution. The state argued that the prison terms for Abu Ahmed should be five to seven years, for Keis four to six and a half years, for Koskov two to four years and for Schneider six months to one year.

Judge Amir Toubi wrote in the verdict that he took into consideration the defendants’ confessions, their conviction-free records and the positive evaluations given by the court evaluator.

Toubi said the case’s media coverage, which “sullied the defendants’ names, making them an object of scorn and hatred and increasing their suffering beyond their indictment,” must also be taken into consideration.

Public defense laywer Lior Bar Zohar, who represented Goskov, said: “The court accepted most of our arguments and addressed the home’s acute staff shortage, which forced the caretakers to exercise more force than required. Peter took responsibility for his part and expressed deep regret. We hope that the affair will finally bring the state to take responsibility for the supervision of old-age homes to ensure the elderly are adequately treated.”

Public defense lawyer Leonid Parkhovnik, who represented Keis, said, “This is a painful story. However, Andrei’s part in it was relatively small and he took responsibility and expressed regret. Regrettably the state put the sentry on trial and not the management.”

Yulia Shenkar, who represented one of the victims’ families, slammed the verdict. “The penalty is lenient to the verge of disgraceful. This was abuse of helpless people that was documented on several occasions.”