Israel's Justice Ministry: Prosecutors Fail to Inform Crime Victims of Legal Process Outcomes

Report looks into 98 cases, finds that in 71 percent of them prosecutors did not inform victims of a possible plea bargain.

An empty court room in Tel Aviv.
Ilan Assayag

Prosecutors neglect to inform crime victims of the outcome of the offenders’ prosecution in 88 percent of cases, according to a report on the work of the prosecution by a Justice Ministry oversight commission.

The Victims Rights Law obligates the prosecution to inform crime victims at various states of the criminal proceedings. The prosecution is also required to inform victims of sex crimes and severe violence at other phases in the proceedings, such as whether a plea bargain is in the works, so that the victim can give a statement to the prosecutor.

The report, which is the third to be published by the Commission for Inspection of the State Prosecution, checked 98 cases and found that in 71 percent of them prosecutors did not inform victims of a possible plea bargain.

One such case involves Avital Menashe, the widow of George Sa’ado, who was shot to death by teens in Ramle while walking his dog in 2012. The prosecution signed a plea bargain with the minor offender accused in the shooting, by which he would be convicted of manslaughter, not murder, and serve 12 years in prison.

“We didn’t know about the plea bargain itself when they began the process, and then I heard about it through the newspapers. I felt bitter, angry and ashamed.” Menashe said.

She added that the prosecutor overseeing the case was actually in touch with them frequently, but she was disappointed that her position on the plea bargain was not accepted.

“After we heard about the deal through the media I had a meeting with the prosecution in which I told the district prosecution that it is not reasonable for him to be convicted of manslaughter instead of murder and they said there wasn’t enough proof.”

The law states that after crime victims are informed of a plea bargain they have 14 days to submit their position in writing. However, the report notes that, as opposed to Menashe’s case, in most cases the victims’ position is not heard, and even when victims were able to make a statement, they did so orally and not in writing, and not in the time frame mandated by law.

There is some improvement, according to the chairwoman of a victims’ rights group for the families of murder victims, Lara Tzinman, in that “now we hear about plea bargains from the prosecution and not through the media. But still we almost always hear about it at the last minute, right before it’s signed. When it’s done so hastily it leaves a wound in the family for years.”

Victims of serious crimes are also supposed to be notified when the plea bargain is signed and brought before a judge for approval. In these cases the findings were even poorer: Out of 98 cases checked, in 92 percent of the cases the prosecution did not inform the victims as required.

The prosecution said that it welcomes the presence of oversight in this subject, which was implemented at its request. However, “much of the data in it are misleading and do an injustice to many prosecutors,” the statement said, adding: “For example, in most of the cases the prosecutors inform the victims of a plea bargain in the works and in most cases they document this in the file, although not always [in the file checked by] the commission. Along with all this, there is always room for improvement.”

The prosecutors’ association responded that “victims are close to the hearts of prosecutors, who work for them out of a sense of mission and responsibility. The commission’s report was written in our opinion in an unprofessional manner and does not note the positive work of the prosecution in this matter, even beyond what the law requires.”