The explanations provided Thursday by the State Prosecution regarding its decision to sign off on the "starving mother's" plea bargain didn't manage to convince many people in the legal system. In a conversation with Ynet, a senior prosecutor leveled scathing criticism on the process and pointed an accusatory figure on the softened approach taken by enforcement bodies towards women when there is fear of renewed haredi riots in the capital.
"This woman is fit to stand trial. However, despite this, it is clear that there is a certain disturbance here that makes it clear that if the court were to convict her, she would be sent to prison for a few months to a year," explained the senior prosecutor, who is unrelated to the case.
"We must remember that she has the right to take her small children with her to jail. In this case, I am certain the Prosecution remembered the haredi riots in Jerusalem well. One of the reasons for signing the bargain was to prevent the renewal of disturbances in the case of a conviction," he explained.
Riots in Jerusalem last summer. Reason for light sentence? (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Regarding the differences in the severity of punishment taken against women, the prosecutor elaborated, "In this case, this is not part of a phenomenon, but one instance. Despite this, it is true that women receive lighter sentences because the starting point with them is like with a minor or youth, whom they prefer to send for rehabilitation. This was also the emphasis in this case. In addition, the prosecution saved itself a case, and the woman took responsibility for her actions, something which likely would mean that the riots would not be renewed."
Attorney Uri Kenan, who specializes in criminology, joined in on the criticism: "In principle, the State Prosecution would be better off using equal measures towards all defendants as obligated by the law. In this case, I am unfamiliar with the considerations that led the Prosecution to the bargain, but a situation in which decisions are made based on gender is inconceivable. I believe that if a man had performed similar acts, such a bargain would not have been signed."
'Plea bargains save time'
Despite assertions being made against signing the plea bargain with the mother, some retired judges sided with the court, explaining that such deals are approved by the court only when justified. "In general, if they wouldn't reach a plea bargain, there would be an even heavier case load on the court than there currently is, which is anyway very bad," said retired Judge Amnon Strasnov.
However, he emphasized, "Every bargain is predicated on authorization from the court. If it believes that it is against public order or public peace, it can reject it. When a person admits guilt in a specific case, it saves a lot of time. This is also the reason it is understood that punishment is lighter in a plea bargain, which in actuality prevents a long, drawn-out trial, and the accumulation of case loads and high costs for the State."
Similar statements were made by retired District Court Justice Uri Shtruzman. "It must be assumed that the prosecution that struck the deal surely knew what it was doing. Prison is not a cure for crime, and it could very well be that there is an amassment of considerations that resulted in the bargain. I trust the State Prosecution and the court, which can reject the bargain if it sees to be unfit," he said.
'It could have been worth it'
Welfare workers and doctors who worked on the case were particularly outraged by the plea bargain outcome. They told of their deep sense of being slighted and their disappointment from the court's decision.
"We took a lot, even physically. Even our family members received threats. Now they are letting her go like that after we suffered so much. All this could have perhaps been worth it if she had received a fitting sentence," said a source involved in the case. "The message that we all received clearly is that it doesn't matter what happens, the court will be very tolerant and whoever treats these kinds of cases will remain frustrated."
Israel National Council for the Child Executive Director Dr. Yitzhak Kadman leveled harsh criticism against the court's decision. "It seems as though the blood of children in Israel is shockingly cheap. Some 80% of abuse cases against children are resolved in plea bargains. They have become the plague of the State," said Dr. Kadman.
Kadman explained, "To get off without any significant punishment after abusing a child is not only a terrible injustice against the victim, but also a terribly negative and dangerous message to the next abusers. It will only strengthen the despair of children, who will learn from this that is not at all worth it to speak out or complain. The court must rid itself of illogical plea bargains."
Vered Luvitch, Aviel Magnezi, and Yael Branovsky contributed to this report