OPINION: Accused child rapist Malka Leifer must face charges

The Age

February 28, 2018

By Alex Lavelle

Natural justice demands that everyone deserves the presumption of innocence, and that it must be tested in a court. Natural justice also dictates that alleged victims of crime have the opportunity to be heard in court. In the extraordinary case of a former Melbourne school principal facing 74 charges of rape and other sexual abuse of young girls, natural justice has been unacceptably perverted for a decade.

Dual Australian-Israeli citizen Malka Leifer, who had been in charge of the Adass Israel School, fled to Israel with her husband and their eight children, and with the financial and logistic help of leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community exclusively served by the school, within hours of the first allegations emerging. She lived with relative impunity until finally being arrested in 2014. She was released on bail after arguing she suffered anxiety and extreme panic attacks.

Thus began a legal strategy that many, including The Age, view with scepticism; every time she was scheduled to face extradition proceedings, her lawyers claimed she was too mentally ill to stand trial. Her case was frozen in 2016, after a judge said she was unfit to stand trial. But she was again arrested last month, with police arguing she was faking her mental illness, after undercover surveillance footage showed her living what appeared a normal daily life in an ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement.

However, hopes she will finally face justice have been frustrated yet again. Despite a comprehensive psychiatric report stating she is well enough to face trial, her lawyer has delayed extradition, for the moment, on a technicality – that Jerusalem’s chief psychiatrist did not sign the report, and that the defence team has had insufficient time to study it. The report was prepared by two psychiatrists who have been observing Ms Leifer since her latest arrest two weeks ago at the urging of Australian officials.

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