A former Melbourne school teacher accused of molesting her students has lost a bid to avoid psychiatric tests, in a court ruling that increases the likelihood she will be extradited from Israel.
Victoria Police is trying to have Malka Leifer brought back to Australia to face 74 charges of sexually assaulting female students during her time at the ultra-orthodox Adass Israel school. But the process has stalled several times since charges were laid in 2013.
Key to Ms Leifer’s legal fight against extradition is her claim that she is too mentally unwell.
In a step welcomed by alleged victims, the Jerusalem Supreme Court has rejected the accused’s appeal against a District Court decision handed down in late September that ordered a new psychiatric panel to assess and report on the 52-year-old’s mental state.
Former student Dassi Erlich said it had been a “testing” six hour wait on Tuesday night for a decision. She was following the court case through a live blog.
“Time to breathe, sleep and remember we will get through this,” Ms Erlich tweeted.
The appeal was heard a week before the new psychiatric panel was due to present its findings to the Israeli court.
Hour long hearing, testing 6hr wait, finally #courtdate61 is over!
Appeal rejected in Supreme court!
Judge Mintz upheld Judge Lomp's ruling-Leifer will be examined by psych panel tomorrow. #courtdate62 – Dec 10.
Time to breathe, sleep & remember we will get through this
— Dassi Erlich #bringleiferback (@dassi_erlich) December 3, 2019
In September, Judge Chana Miriam Lomp deemed there wasn’t enough evidence that Leifer was mentally fit to face an extradition trial, even though court proceedings have been ongoing since 2014.
Israel’s State Attorney Office, acting as the prosecution in the case against Leifer, has produced countless evidence over the 61 court hearings that the accused is feigning mental illness to avoid an extradition trial.
At the end of October, Leifer’s lawyers had stated she would not co-operate in the fresh psychiatric assessment.
The District Court judge ruled the panel should proceed anyway.
In court on Tuesday, Leifer’s defence continued to claim there was no “rationale” or “authority” by the court for the accused to undergo another assessment, and it wasn’t fair on the defendant.
The psychiatric panel will examine Ms Leifer on Wednesday before presenting its report to the court on December 10.
The report will be discussed at next week’s hearing and both sides will then be given the opportunity to cross-examine the psychiatrists in the next step in this long process.
Victim supporter Manny Waks welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.
“We expect next week’s decisive hearing to rule that Malka Leifer is indeed fit to face justice, and that her extradition hearing will finally recommence,” Mr Waks, the chief executive of Kol v’Oz, said in a statement.
Malka Leifer hearing #61 – Supreme Court decisionJudge David Mintz has DISMISSED the appeal by Leifer's lawyers…
“This ongoing farce must end, and justice must prevail – for Leifer’s victims and for other victims who are being deterred from pursuing justice.”
Ms Leifer is currently being held in Neve Tirtza women’s prison outside of Tel Aviv after the Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision to release her to house arrest.