Complainant awarded 5,000 NIS over police negligence
Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado; Photo credit: Honenu
Sunday, May 31, 2020, 11:37 In her decision regarding an incident which occurred approximately five years ago, Hadera Magistrates Court Judge Hadassa Assif ruled that the police must compensate S. for detention and interrogation in violation of the law on Shabbat. In her ruling, Judge Assif leveled criticism at the police for not exercising independent judgment, but rather relying on information transferred from the GSS without any additional examination. Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado: “The ruling puts an end to a five-year saga, during which the complainant refuted the legality of and the justification for the policemen hastily removing him from a synagogue on a Shabbat evening for a strange and meaningless police interrogation. In the decision, which encompasses a long string of failures and negligence on the part of the police, it was ruled that there was no justification whatsoever for the detention. “In a decision bearing consequences beyond the complainant’s personal case, the court accepted our fundamental claim that when the GSS wants to detain someone via the police, the police must exercise independent judgment and act according to the criteria of the police, and not blindly according to GSS orders. We welcome the ruling, on a personal level for the complainant, and also for the principle of it.” On a Shabbat evening approximately five years ago, policemen entered the synagogue where S. was praying and detained him for interrogation. S. did not want to desecrate Shabbat and therefore requested permission to report on his own to the police station. The policemen agreed and drove away. S. arrived at the police station approximately a half an hour later. At the police station S. was interrogated under warning by an interrogator about a post that he had uploaded to Facebook. The post was not presented to S., however his fingerprints and DNA samples were taken. He was also photographed. Afterwards he was released to his home and he was not interrogated again. Several weeks later the case was closed due to lack of evidence. Approximately two years after the detention, S. sued the police over the interrogation on Shabbat due to its lack of urgency. Moreover, S. although he is Shabbat-observant, was required to give fingerprints and be photographed, which is contrary to police directives. The police denied the claims made by S. and explained that the interrogation was carried out one day after the murder of Rabbi Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, and that S. “Expressed himself concerning a future attack on mosques, in an action classified as ‘price tag’.” In light of the urgency of the matter, a police car was sent to his home to locate, detain and bring him to the police station in order to prevent “an act liable to endanger his safety and that of the public.” Judge Assif rejected the explanations by the police and very severely censured their conduct: “It is not clear what aroused, supposedly, the suspicion of an immediate threat to the public peace. In fact, it has not been proven that the police or any of the policemen had a reasonable basis for assuming that the complainant was about to commit a crime liable to endanger public peace, all the more so an immediate threat.” Additionally, Judge Assif mentioned that the claim by the police concerning remarks by S. was not proven: “No details were even given as to how the expression was made, in writing or orally. It is not clear whether the expression is from 2.10.2015 or from another date.” The reliance by the police on information transferred to them by the GSS was also highly problematic to Judge Assif: “From testimonies by the policemen a disturbing picture arises, very disturbing. Not one of them exercised independent judgment or examined for himself if there was a reasonable basis for the suspicion.” Judge Assif added that the GSS chose to have the police detain S.: “Because the task was imposed on the police, in any event they should have exercised independent judgment! They are not permitted to, and must not, replace their judgment with that of the GSS.” In her decision, Judge Assif detailed the the negligence of the police: the conversation with the GSS was not documented in the investigative file, the investigative file did not include the action report of the patrol policemen who arrived at S.’s home, the information transferred to the interrogator was not recorded in an organized manner in the file, and therefore it is not clear what the information was on the basis of which the police interrogated the complainant, and there are additional flaws. In the conclusion of the ruling, Judge Assif wrote that the detention of the complainant for interrogation was not according to law. Additionally, the police were negligent in their detention and insistence to interrogate S. on Shabbat, when there was no genuine basis for their haste. Also it turned out during the deliberation that the policemen had ignored the rights of the complainant as a detainee and an interrogatee on Shabbat, because they did not recognize the police regulations for maintaining the rights of interrogatees on Shabbat. Judge Assif ruled that the police must pay the complainant 5,000 NIS in compensation, and an additional 5,000 NIS for court expenses and attorneys’ fees.