A Tel Aviv District Court judge released two minors from detention last week, criticizing the conditions in which they were held. The two 15-year-olds, who were suspected of breaking into cars, were arrested at 2 A.M. They claimed that on arrival at the Bat Yam police station their hands and feet were cuffed, and that they were left sitting for eight hours in a room with an investigator, before their questioning began.
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The law regulating interrogation of juveniles stipulates that they cannot be questioned at night without the written and explicit approval of an authorized officer, and even that, only in exceptional cases. Furthermore, they are to be held in separate juvenile facilities, not at police stations. After their questioning, police requested a five-day extension of their detention.
Magistrate Court Justice Noam Shilo ordered a one-day extension but thought it was unreasonable to transfer them elsewhere in the middle of the night when their questioning was to begin at that station in the morning. Shilo argued that the law is ridden with regulations which often impede police investigations.
The juveniles’ public defenders appealed and Magistrate Court Justice Michal Agmon-Gonen agreed, ordering the youths’ release. She criticized police conduct as well as Justice Shilo’s decision.
“Not only was time not saved and regulations broken, but the public was ill served since it’s doubtful whether confessions obtained after sleep deprivation will be admissible,” said Agmon-Gonen, adding that it was “an outright violation of the law to leave them cuffed all night.”
She added that “In violation of the law, the two were held at a police station... There was no hindrance to taking them to a juvenile detention facility, as stipulated by law, allowing them to sleep before their interrogation.”
Regarding Justice Shilo, Agmon-Gonen wrote that “the law was meant to protect minors. Even if he thought it unreasonable to take them to a juvenile facility at 2 A.M., that’s what the law required. If the police failed to do so, this should be reflected in the court’s ruling.”
She ordered her decision to be transferred to Tel Aviv’s police chief so he can look into procedures at that station.
The police commented that “the two were arrested during a break-in. Several preliminary investigative steps were taken. We’ll examine the delay in their interrogation and study the court’s decision.”