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Israel: Protection of Children in Criminal Investigations and Trials

(Oct. 16, 2017) On July 24, 2017, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Evidence (Protection of Children) (Amendment No. 17) Law, 5777-2017 (Amendment Law) (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, official gazette, SH] 5777 No. 2656 p. 1106, available at KNESSET NATIONAL LEGISLATION DATABASE (in Hebrew).)  The Law amends the Evidence (Protection of Children) Law, 5715-1955.  (SH 5715 No. 184 p. 96, as amended; references below to the “Law” are to the current text of the Law, incorporating the Amendment Law.)  The Amendment Law sets a special procedure for interrogating and obtaining testimony from a child under 14 years of age in cases of sex offenses and offenses involving domestic violence.  It requires the presence and the permission of a child investigator to obtain testimony from a child.  (Law, §§ 1-2(a).)  It authorizes the court to stop a child’s testimony upon the court’s own initiative or per a request by a child investigator, upon finding that continuation of the testimony may cause the child emotional harm.  (Id. § 2(c).)

Conditions of Testifying

The child investigator may make permission for the child to testify dependent on the condition that the defendant will not be present in the courtroom; the testimony will be given in the presence of the defense attorney via closed-circuit television or other means. (Id. § 2(d)(1).)  The court may order that the questions asked be adjusted to the level of the child’s comprehension and may similarly issue special instructions on the duration of the child’s cross examination.  To the extent possible, the child’s testimony will not be interrupted and will be limited to the day on which it commences.  The court may, however, stop or delay the hearing of a child’s testimony if it believes that its continuation causes hardship to the child.  (Id. §§ 2(e) & 10(a).)

The Law further now requires the provision of a room or other space suitable to their needs where minors can wait before testifying in court.  (Id. § 2F.)

Presence of Child Investigators and Others

In accordance with the now amended Law, unless otherwise determined by the court for special reasons, which must be registered, a person selected by the child to be present during the child’s testimony in court must be allowed in, even if the hearing is conducted behind closed doors. (Id. § 2B(a).)  Moreover, except if impossible or for special, registered reasons, a child investigator who has investigated a child must be present during the child’s testimony in court.  (Id. § 2B(b).)  When the child investigator has authorized the testimony of a child, the child’s cross examination can only be done by the defense attorney or an attorney appointed for the defendant by the court, not by the defendant.  (Id. § 2C.)

Appointment of Child Investigators

For the purpose of implementing the Law, child investigators are to be appointed by the Minister of Justice according to recommendations of a committee composed of the following members:

  1. President of the Juvenile Courts or a Juvenile Court judge appointed by the President, who will serve as a chairperson of the committee;
  2. Head of the Child and Special Investigations Unit in the Ministry of Labor Welfare and Social Services or a senior child investigator on his/her behalf;
  3. a senior police officer appointed by the Minister for Internal Security;
  4. a Ministry of Education employee who is an educator appointed by the Minister of Education;
  5. a Ministry of Health employee who is a psychiatrist or a psychologist who specializes in children and youth, appointed by the Minister of Health. (Id. § 3.)