Couple awarded 4,500 NIS in compensation
Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 12:48 Tsfat Magistrate Court Judge Mohannad Halaily ruled that the State will pay 4,500 NIS in compensation to a couple for a search conducted in their car by policemen without their being informed of the grounds for the search. The complainants in the case are a couple from the Shomron. Approximately 18 months ago the couple drove with their infant son to the Ari z”l’s tomb in Tsfat. In the parking lot of the tomb complex they encountered policemen, who requested that the husband, who was driving the car, show his driver’s license and car registration. He presented the documents and the policemen demanded to search the car and to conduct a body search on his wife. A policewoman who conducted the search found a knife in the car. The couple was taken with their son to the police station. At the station the complainants were interrogated and at the end of the interrogation were released after signing on conditions which included a distancing order from Tsfat. In the statement of claim the complainants demanded compensation for violation of their dignity, their privacy, their freedom of movement and freedom of property. The complainants also stated that the acts of the policemen included negligence, assault, and false arrest, because of which the couple were forced to end their family vacation. In the statement of defense filed by the State by means of the Northern District Attorney’s Office, it is stated that the complainants’ car was stopped in a routine check, during which the complainant was required to present his papers. The defense claimed that the behavior of the complainants aroused the suspicions of the policewoman, who entered the husband’s name into the police console, which showed that he is known to the police. In light of that the police demanded to conduct a search of the car. A fixed blade knife was found in the glove compartment. The complainants replied that the knife belonged to the wife, who used it for cutting things. The police detained the couple on suspicion of possessing a knife for improper purposes. In the verdict Judge Halaily accepted the claims by the defense that the causes for the search were justified, due to the fact that the complainant was known to the police and his conduct by their judgement appeared suspicious, and due to the fact that the incident occurred near a holy and sensitive place. However, added the judge, the police are obligated to be careful not to turn every “bedukai” (police jargon for “potential suspect”) into an eternal suspect marked to be checked at every encounter with a policeman. On the other hand, the judge accepted the claims by the wife that the complainants had not been informed of any cause for the search and that, “The policemen did not inform the complainants what the reason for the search was and that is contrary to orders.” In light of his determinations, the judge ruled that the State will pay 3,000 NIS in compensation to the complainants and an additional 1,500 NIS for legal costs. Honenu Attorney Menasheh Yado, who represented the complainants, stated, “The court hit [them] in the pocket, and that is the right place to cause the police to internalize the norms which obligate policemen in an encounter with civilians.” Yado also stated that incidents in which policemen exert authority over civilians without an explanation, which occurs frequently, is actually a civil wrong, and the police must compensate a complainant, even if there had been a justified cause for the search. See here for a recent compensation case in which Honenu successfully represented a complainant.