Israel Supreme Court Refuses to Soften Stiff Sentences for Counterfeit Viagra Dealers

Fake Viagra

On appeal, the Central Region District Court in Lod ruled a ten month gaol sentence and fine for Roi Peer who had distributed counterfeit Viagra pills. Roi Peer appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, where Justice Jubrahn ruled as follows:

The crimes that the appellant were convicted of are serious and the weight of evidence required to show a likelihood of rehabilitation is consequently significant. The fine and the gaol sentence are separate punishments that should be considered separately as is the ruling that the convict be detained in an appropriate secure installation.

The Appelant was convicted on the basis of his admission, of selling and marketing pills allegedly for treating impotence, without a Dr’s prescription, not in original packaging, infringing the trademarks and without meeting the patients or gaining medical information about them.

The Court of First Instance ruled six months community service and a 150,000 Shekel fine. The District Court rejected the appeal concerning the size of the fine but accepted the State’s Appeal regarding the rest of the sentence and changed it to 10 months actual prison time. This is the basis of the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Whereas a first Appeal is a matter of right, a second Appeal is granted only in cases having a significant public interest, an important legal question requiring clarification or where there are specific issues concerning the fairness of the punishment. In this instance, there is no such justification for further judicial review. The stiffness of a punishment is only grounds for review if it is significantly disproportionate to other sentences for similar crimes. In this instance, the punishment is reasonable and balances the various considerations.

In this instance, there is insufficient indication that the Appellant will be restored to being a productive member of society to justify not sentencing him to prison. The psychological evaluation was inconclusive. The crimes were serious and the financial greed could have adversely affected the public health. The evidence of likely rehabilitation required in this case is significant and not available.

The argument that the District Court acting as an Appeal Court exceeded its mandate thereby justifying a further appeal is rejected since the sentence was in the same category as that issued by the Court of First Instance and is reasonable in the circumstances. The fact that the District Court did not detail how the punishment was reached is insufficient to justify a further appeal. The Supreme Court does not consider that time equivalent to paying the fine can used to determine the appropriate additional gaol sentence since gaol time for not paying fines is different from a gaol sentence per se and these cannot be combined in ascertaining whether a  punishment exceeds that allowed for by law or whether such a punishment is reasonable.

9102/15 Dismissal of Further Appeal of Ruling 3933-09-15, the Dismissal by S Gubrahn, 16 January 2016

COMMENT

We note that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence justifying allegations that the pills were a health risk. Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that they don’t work. Erectile dysfunction may be a medical condition that causes stress for the sufferer and his partner but it is not the sort of condition that is life threatening. That is not to say that wilful trademark infringement and passing off fake goods should not deserve serious fines and gaol time. I just don’t see this instance as more serious than other examples of willful trademark infringement and distribution of counterfeit articles.

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