Hundreds of Sexual Assault Cases in Israel Closed Without Trial in 2020

Out of some 3,000 sexual assault cases last year, prosecutors closed 2,700 without issuing an indictment, mostly due to insufficient evidence

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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Women protest against sexual violence toward women holding a sign reading 'I believe you' in Tel Aviv
Women protest against sexual violence toward women holding a sign reading 'I believe you' in Tel AvivCredit: Meged Gozani
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

The percentage of suspected sexual offenders whose cases were closed due to insufficient evidence in Israel is higher than that of all criminal cases, according to a report by the state prosecutor’s office in 2020.

The conviction rate in 2020 for sexual offenses was also lower than for other criminal offenses, the report notes. According to the prosecution, lack of evidence is an inherent problem in all suspected sexual offenses and often precludes trial and conviction of alleged offenders.

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According to the report, last year the prosecution closed 2,700 cases against 3,000 suspected sexual offenders without issuing an indictment. In 68 percent of these cases, they were closed for lack of sufficient evidence, as opposed to 59 percent of cases for other criminal offenses in 2020.

The report also revealed that of those cases that went to trial, approximately 79 percent of those charged with sexual offenses in 2020 were convicted on all or some of the charges, as opposed to 85 percent for other criminal offenses. In 6 percent of the cases (in which the defendants were mostly minors) the court ruled that they had committed the crime in question, but that they should not be convicted, as opposed to 5 percent of cases overall in which it was determined that the suspects had committed the crime.

According to the report, 76 percent of sexual offenders in 2020 were convicted based on a plea bargain as opposed to 83 percent for other offenses.

Only about 267 cases ended without a plea bargain. In approximately 60 percent of those cases, the process ended with conviction on all or some of the charges, or in a ruling that the accused had committed the crime but was not convicted. This is in contrast to 59 percent of all criminal cases where no plea bargain was struck. Twelve percent of suspected sexual offenders were completely exonerated, as opposed to 9 percent of criminal defendants overall. In about 14 percent of sexual assault cases, the prosecution withdrew the indictment.

The report also noted a 7-percent rise in indictments for sexual offenses since 2019, from 696 to 744. Indictments for sexual offenses in 2020 have risen by 30 percent since 2016. It also noted that 16 percent of sexual assault charges were issued against minors.

According to the 2020 report, approximately 4,100 cases involving 4,736 suspects were opened that included at least one sexual offense.

Prosecutors say that the lack of evidence stems from the challenges accusers face in testifying to police. This is demonstrated by the conviction rate in sexual offenses, the prosecution says, noting that the process will often end with the accused being exonerated due to insufficient evidence.

“The position of the accuser is one of the most important criteria with regard to reaching a plea bargain,” prosecutors said, nothing that “the percentage of plea bargains is low compared to all criminal offenses.”

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