Friday, November 24, 2006

Child abuse case still pending trial four years after initial complaint

By Ruth Sinai
November 24, 2006

Almost four years have passed since the sister of a 10-year-old boy filed an abuse complaint on her brother's behalf against the uncle who regularly beat and emotionally abused him. Legal proceedings in the case have been continually delayed, and the uncle has not yet been tried. The alleged victim's sister also claimed she suffered abuse at the hands of the uncle.

The uncle was charged three years ago, but a series of delays, some initiated by the defendant and some due to court foot-dragging, have put the now 14-year-old boy through a long and rigorous ordeal.

The uncle was charged with assault in November 2003, some 10 months after the complaint was originally filed. The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court scheduled a hearing for March 27, 2005, one year and four months after the indictment.

In February 2005, the defendant asked to postpone the hearing until after the Jewish holiday of Purim, so that he could properly celebrate the holiday. The court rescheduled the hearing for April 10. The hearing took place as scheduled, but the defendant did not have proper representation, so the proceedings were again postponed.

The following hearing was scheduled for November 20, 2005, exactly two years after the indictment. On the day of the hearing, the prosecution and the defense requested another delay in an attempt to reach a settlement. The hearing was again postponed, this time for December 6, 2005.

This hearing was then postponed, because it was scheduled for the same day that the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's office was slated to participate in an education program. The next hearing was scheduled for April 24, 2006. Shortly after the date was set, the defense attorney recused himself and the hearing was postponed until May 22.

At this hearing, the defendant denied the allegations against him and a hearing for the presentation of the evidence was scheduled for October 24, 2006. After the victim underwent preparation for his testimony, he was barred from testifying at the hearing due to another postponement, this time because the defense attorney had fallen ill and lost her voice. The next hearing is set to take place on December 25.

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman of the National Council for the Child in Israel wrote the director of the Courts Administration, Justice Moshe Gal, a letter in which he condemned the repeated delays.

"One can only imagine what this boy must be going through," Kadman wrote. "He is a victim of a crime and his interests have been postponed and pushed aside regularly by the judicial system, and his childhood is passing him by in tense anticipation of the trial."

Kadman also mentioned that children are naturally hesitant to report abuse, and the "inconceivable torture" suffered by the victim is detrimental to efforts to encourage other children to come forward and report abuse.

He asked Gal to find a way to expedite proceedings where minors are involved, especially in cases of sexual and physical abuse within the family.


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