Justice Ministry Ordered to Pay NIS 5,000 for Mishandling Investigation of Police Officer

For a court to order a government entity to pay compensation to a private person involved in a criminal proceeding - as opposed to a civil proceeding - is extremely rare.

The Justice Ministry department in charge of investigating police officers has come under heavy fire from the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court for repeatedly refusing to return property confiscated from a policeman.

In an exceptional move last week, Judge Mirit Fohrer ordered the department to pay the policeman NIS 5,000 in compensation. For a court to order a government entity to pay compensation to a private person involved in a criminal proceeding - as opposed to a civil proceeding - is extremely rare.

The case goes back to the middle of 2009, when the Justice Ministry department launched an investigation into policeman David Yosef, 40, who was suspected of forging an Education Ministry form. The form stated that Yosef held an academic degree needed to secure a salary increase. Yosef was accused only of forging the form, not of misrepresenting the details of the degree; he does, in fact, hold the stated degree.

When the investigation was launched, Yosef was suspended from the police force at half-pay until such time as the matter could be resolved. Three years have passed, but no charges have been filed.

In February of this year, department investigators raided Yosef's home and confiscated several television converters which the investigators said had been improperly used. They also confiscated five cell phones, one of which was an iPhone that they said had been stolen.

Yosef and his wife responded that the iPhone belonged to the Health Ministry, where his wife works as a branch manager, and that they could photograph the converters if they were crucial to the investigation.

The investigators, however, took the goods. The couple then petitioned the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, asking it to order the Justice Ministry to return their property.

In early April, Judge Fohrer ordered the Justice Ministry department to return the property immediately. But when Yosef came to the department's offices with the court order to retrieve his property, his request was refused. His lawyer, Ariel Atari, filed again with the court, and again Fohrer issued an order. But the investigation department again refused to hand over the property.

On Tuesday, Fohrer convened another hearing. This time she ordered the representatives of the Justice Ministry department to bring the confiscated property to the hearing, to ensure that her order would be obeyed.

The judge castigated the department for not honoring her previous orders. "Delay in implementation is akin to making up your own laws, with all that implies," she ruled, ordering the department to pay Yosef NIS 5,000 in compensation.

After the ruling, Atari said the confiscation by the Justice Ministry was an effort to harass Yosef after he complained that a policeman with whom he had a personal dispute - and who was appointed a department agent even though he too had been suspected of forgery - was the one who had actually forged the Education Ministry form.

The department responded that the suspicions regarding Yosef - that he had cheated the police out of hundreds of thousands of shekels in increased wages - were also serious. The department added that the converters were confiscated due to suspicions that he was getting service from the Yes company without paying for it.