Call for Israel to hand over alleged child abuser Malka Leifer

Cameron Stewart (The Australian)
June 4, 2016

Australia must step up pressure on Israel over the extradition of former school principal and accused sex offender Malka Leifer, one of the women's alleged victims said yesterday.

She was speaking after a Jerusalem judge ruled Leifer was not mentally fit to face extradition proceedings to Australia and she would be set free from house detention.

The decision dashes the hopes of Leifer's alleged victims that the former principal will face trial in Melbourne in the next few years and raises the possibility she may never be extradited.

"I am so angry, this is very unfair," one of Leifer's alleged victims told The Weekend Australian. "She has basically been set free to live her life."

The alleged victim said the issue needed to be taken up more vigorously. "I would love the Australian government to put more pressure on Israel over this," she said. "She needs to be bought back to face trial."

Australia's ambassador in Tel Aviv, Dave Sharma, said the embassy was liaising with the Israeli State Attorney's office about the next step to take.

"We are committed to seeing this woman extradited to Australia to face these very serious child sex abuse charges," he was quoted as saying. "We are determined to be patient and persevere to this end."

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's Department said: "Australia retains a strong extradition interest in Ms Leifer, who is wanted to face prosecution in Victoria for serious criminal conduct relating to 74 sexual assault offences."

Leifer has for two years avoided extradition by saying she has panic attacks before court hearings and is therefore not well enough to attend them. A psychiatric report handed down this week agreed she was mentally unwell and so the judge ordered she complete psychiatric treatment before facing an extradition hearing. Any hearing could be delayed indefinitely if she is continually found to be mentally unfit.

Leifer was principal of the Adass Israel School in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick in the mid-2000s when she was alleged to have abused schoolgirls under her care. One of her victims was last year awarded $1,024,428 in damages.

Upon hearing of the initial accusations against Leifer in March 2008, senior members of the Adass community were complicit in helping her flee the country, an act that former Victorian Supreme Court judge Jack Rush described as "disgraceful" and "deplorable".