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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Judge: 'Abusive mother' may hurt other kids

Supreme Court accepts State's appeal, orders probation service to prepare review of threat posed by woman accused of starving her three-year-old son, in order to determine conditions of her arrest

The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticized the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court decision to place a woman suspected of abusing and starving her three-year-old son under house arrest before professional experts examined the threat she poses to her surroundings, and despite the fact that suspicions that she had hurt her other children have not been looked into.

"The decision to place her under house arrest was unusual," rules Justice Edna Arbel.

The judge accepted the State's appeal, ordering the probation service to immediately prepare a review of the threat posed by the woman in order to determine the conditions of her arrest.

In her decision, Justice Arbel noted that this case justifies – and even requires – such a review, even before a decision is made on the entire matter.

Last Friday, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the mother would remain under house arrest in her house in the Mea Shearim neighborhood, despite the State demand that she be kept away from her home, from all of her children and from the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

The State appealed the decision, demanding a probation service review. On Wednesday, Justice Arbel accepted the appeal, ruling that the review would be submitted to the District Court within two weeks, on August 26 – three days after the woman's trial is scheduled to resume.

According to the judge, the court cannot ignore the material gathered as part of the investigation into the case, which points to the fact that the mother may be putting the rest of her children at risk. She added that this fear should be looked into.

Arbel noted that the indictment filed against the mother was severe, and that the offense attributed to her "includes, the way things are, a threat to minors." She added that the evidence included indications raising the fear that the woman's other children had been hurt, and that "such indications justify an examination and inspection".

"I believe that in light of the nature of the allegations against the mother, we cannot avoid examining the fear of threat at this time," Arbel wrote in her decision. "When taking into account that the mother is at home with her children, and that so far the general conduct in this case did not include full cooperation with the authorities, I think it would be right to start preparing a review now."

The judge concluded by saying that the court cannot ignore the fact that attempts have been made – even if not by the mother herself – to thwart the investigation, such as the children's failure to show up for their questioning sessions, and expressed her hope that they would fully cooperate with the probation service's review.

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