Man Convicted of Sexually Abusing 5-year-old Acquitted After Prosecution Asked Investigator to Amend Report

The defendant’s lawyer said his client’s case was the tip of the iceberg when it comes to efforts at coordinating between investigators in child-abuse cases

FILE PHOTO: A man in Jerusalem
Olivier Fitoussi

A man accused of sexually abusing a child was acquitted by the Jerusalem District Court because the prosecution was found to have asked the investigator who questioned the girl to amend the investigator's report. The defendant’s lawyer said his client’s case was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to efforts at coordination between investigators in cases involving juvenile victims and prosecutors. The judge acquitted the defendant of abusing a second young girl on the grounds of reasonable doubt.

The accused, a resident of Jerusalem and father of five, was indicted in 2013 on allegations that he committed indecent acts on a 5-year-old girl and a 6-year-old girl who lived nearby. The girls were questioned by investigators from the Social Affairs Ministry who wrote reports and provided testimony. One of the investigators, Keren London, originally wrote in her report: “It is difficult for me to assess the credibility” of the child’s statements. At trial, it emerged that, after the prosecution received the report, the prosecutor handling the case, Dafna Abramovitz, asked the investigator to rewrite the report. The sentence referring to the child’s credibility was changed to: “I believe that [the child] reported on a situation of a sexual nature that she underwent with the suspect, but I have difficulty receiving a clear and precise picture about the essence of the harm.”

Judge Moshe Drori wrote in his verdict that the changes had been made without further questioning of the child. Among many other changes was the addition of a sentence in which the investigator said she believed that the girl was “reporting on a situation she had experienced. This is a young girl and the sexual content she reported does not suit her age or a child from a Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] family.”

When the fact that the report was changed came out in court, the defendant's lawyer, Ariel Atari, asked the judge to instruct the prosecution to turn over all communications between the investigator and the prosecutor. The judge noted in his verdict that the prosecution had taken three and a half years to hand over the material and that the defense attorney’s cross-examination of the investigator was carried out without the benefit of access to the material. In acquitting the defendant of charges relating to the second child, the judge ruled that he had committed the acts described in the indictment, but it could not be proven that the defendant's actions consisted of sexual abuse or that they were sexual in nature.

The judge warned of a lack of clear standards regarding the work of investigators of juvenile victims. He called for the establishment of a public committee to examine the subject and ordered that his ruling be provided to Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz. The judge had harsh words for the prosecution’s conduct and ordered that the ruling also be passed on to senior officials in the prosecutor's office as well as Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. The Jerusalem prosecutor’s office said it would study the verdict and then decide what steps to take.