Israel Limits Prison Time for Women Who Kill Abusive Partners

A law passed by the Knesset lowers the maximum prison sentence for women who kill an abusive partner, grants mandatory life sentence for anyone who kills a partner after abusing them for an extended period of time

The crime scene of the murder of Aliza Shafak, a victim of domestic violence, Netanya, October 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

A law passed by the Knesset Tuesday reduces to 15 years the maximum prison sentence for a woman who kills a partner who has abused her over a prolonged period. Anyone who kills a domestic partner after abusing them for an extended period will be convicted of aggravated murder and given a mandatory life sentence.

The changes were part of a Justice Ministry reform in the categories of and penalties for homicide.

Another form of murder recognized by the law is the reckless taking of a life, which will now incur a sentence of 12 years.

In February, as reported in Haaretz, the Justice Ministry said it was opposed to defining the killing of a woman by her male partner spouse as murder under aggravating circumstances. The ministry said the principle of equality before the law made it difficult to categorize an offense according to the sex of the victim or the perpetrator.

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The ministry also said that only a murder that carries an additional harmful element, such as terror, should be considered murder under special circumstances. However, a group of MKs headed by Michal Rozin (Meretz) made the article a condition for the law’s passage.

The compromise applies the law equally, in that a woman who kills her partner after abusing him long-term will also be found guilty of aggravated murder with special circumstances.

The Justice Ministry was also adamantly opposed to reducing the criminal liability of a woman convicted of murdering her abusive spouse. The ministry wanted to cap the sentence for this crime at 20 years, but under pressure from Knesset members it agreed to reduce the maximum sentence to 15 years.

There are currently three levels of the crime of taking a human life: murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide. Under the new classification, the most serious level of homicide is murder under special circumstances. This will include terror, murder of a helpless individual and murder of a minor by the person responsible for him or her.

One level below this will be simple murder, which can carry a life sentence may be imposed if intent or indifference to the outcome can be proved. At present, the penalty for any kind of murder is a life sentence.