Shaked: Cancel private criminal complaints

January 14, 2016  

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) is planning on submitting a bill to cancel section 2 in paragraph 4 of the Criminal Procedure Law, which allows exceptional cases of “private criminal complaints.”

Normally, criminal cases are prosecuted by the state, regardless of the crime victim’s desires. Private citizens are only allowed to bring civil cases.

Private criminal complaints, however, allow individuals to prosecute criminal cases in specific instances where state prosecutors choose not to file charges.

It can only be used when certain laws are broken and the crimes directly harm a citizen, and in which the final sentence does not involve an extended prison term. The laws for which this could be applied include intellectual property law, the Clean Air Act, the Consumer Protection Law, privacy laws, anti-pollution laws, and more.

Whenever a private criminal complaint is filed, prosecutors have a two-week window in which they can “seize” the case and run it themselves, although this happens very rarely.

In addition and unlike state-brought criminal cases, over 90 percent of which end in a conviction, private criminal complaints have a very low rate of success. This is another factor in their rarity.

Over the years, the use of private criminal complaints has shrunk. According to data provided to the Justice Minister’s office, 120 such cases were filed over the past year, about half of which came from one single person.

The Justice Minister is now asking to cancel this process, and to end the ability of citizens to individually conduct criminal cases. At the same time, any who are interested in filing civil cases would still be permitted to sue for damages or to ensure that laws are enforced.

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