Ex Melbourne principal facing sex abuse claims, Malka Leifer, suffering psychosis, lawyer says

By Andrew Friedman, Shannon Deery
Herald Sun
July 15, 2015

Adass Israel School in Elsternwick, where Malka Leifer was once principal

Former Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer.

A PRINCIPAL accused of molesting students at an ultra-orthodox Jewish school has claimed through her lawyer she is psychotic in her latest attempt to fight her extradition to Melbourne.

Authorities are working to force Malka Leifer’s return from Israel amid accusations she sexually assaulted a string of teen girls while principal at Adass Israel School in Elsternwick.

She is currently under house arrest while extradition proceedings continue at the request of Victoria Police who have indicated she could face criminal charges.

Almost a year after being arrested in Israel, lawyers for Mrs Leifer, who has vowed to never return to Melbourne, now claim she is psychotic and unfit to face court.

Mrs Leifer was expected to appear at the Jerusalem District Court overnight but failed to attend because of ill health.

Lawyer Yehuda Fried said the extradition was “only at the beginning” and said his client pledged to drag the case out.

Mr Fried said his Mrs Leifer had been hospitalised multiple times for “psychosis” and said she had been deemed mentally ill by several psychologists.

“We cannot even begin to talk about this until my client is healthy enough to attend court,” Mr Fried told the Herald Sun outside court.

“But even when the district court eventually hands down a decision, we’ve got the Supreme Court (to appeal to), and eventually we can turn to the justice minister, who is required to sign all extradition orders.”

In a move to expedite proceedings prosecutors have called for future hearings to be held at Mrs Leifer’s home, or hospital.

They have also flagged the possibility of medical treatment ahead of future court dates to prevent psychotic attacks.

And they have called for the potential for Mrs Leifer to be returned to full police custody.

“The decision for Australian authorities is not whether or not (Mrs Leifer) is capable of withstanding an extradition hearing. This is not Australia’s concern,” the prosecutor told the court.

“(But as for the) question about whether Australia wants (Leifer to) return, even if the process takes a long time, the answer is yes,” she said.

In a scathing attack Mr Fried accused the prosecution of withholding documents and of “untoward… unethical and illegal behaviour”.

But he refused to respond to rumours that his legal fees are being paid by members of the ultra-Orthodox community, rather than by the Leifer family.

Mrs Leifer, who was based in Melbourne between 2001 and 2008, fled to Israel just hours after allegations of sexual assaults were made public.

School officials failed to report the allegations to police but instead helped Ms Leifer flee to Israel.

The matter will return to court on October 26.



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