The Legal Perspective / Too Young for Trial?

By law, even a minor who has consensual sex with a girl under age 14 is guilty of statutory rape, according to Dr. Avital Molad-Adler, who heads the department for juvenile representation in the Public Defender's Office.

However, Israeli law defines the age of criminal responsibility as 12 years, meaning anyone younger than that cannot be tried: Instead, he would be dealt with by the social services.

Minors over age 12 can be tried, but their age will usually be a factor both in deciding whether to indict them and in the sentence, should they be convicted. Sentencing in the juvenile courts is very individualized, depending not only on the type of crime, but also on the perpetrator's personal and family circumstances and the chances of rehabilitating him, Molad-Adler said.

A suspected juvenile rapist will be assigned a psychologist or social worker who will begin treating him and his family immediately, in parallel with the police investigation and trial, if there is one. The Social Affairs Ministry's psychological evaluation service has a special unit devoted to treating juvenile sex offenders.

The recommendations of this psychologist or social worker will play a significant role in the sentencing should the suspect be convicted, Molad-Adler noted. Even for someone convicted of rape, the sentence can range from treatment in the community through treatment in a closed facility to imprisonment. In practice, juvenile court judges very rarely send minors to jail.