The Knesset overnight Tuesday passed on its second and third reading a measure that prevents police from revealing the reason why it dropped a case against a suspect, either to the suspect, the complainant, or the public. The law will apply to most alleged crimes, with the exception of certain violent crimes.
The reason the law is necessary, according to its sponsor MK David Amsalem, is that in general police close a case when they cannot find enough proof to support their case – and usually announce that. By doing so, said Amsalem, police impose a “negative halo” on suspects, implying that they somehow “got away” with something – but because police were unable to find definitive evidence, they got off on a technicality. In addition, the case against them technically remains open, so the suspicion of wrongdoing follows them throughout their lives.
In a sense, Amsalem said, their situation is worse than for those whose cases go to trial – and who are exonerated. “The criteria for exoneration in court is that the allegations and proof were unsupportable, and that the defendant is innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. In that situation, the case is closed and police cannot recommend a new indictment unless they come up with new evidence. For an individual who was never charged and against whom the active case was closed because of a ‘lack of evidence,’ the evidence police have could be used against them in the future,” he said.
As everyone “knows” what “closed for a lack of evidence” means, Amsalem’s law seeks to remove the social stigma of almost-charged suspects. “The public knowledge that an unresolved case stands against a suspect is a form of punishment that was imposed by police, not the courts. It promises to harm the suspect’s income and livelihood. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, some 400,000 criminal cases are opened against Israelis each year, and a large number are suspended because of a lack of evidence,” Amsalem said.