Former Melbourne Jewish girls’ school principal and alleged pedophile Malka Leifer will walk free, her home detention in Israel lifted.
She will not face extradition to Victoria – where she faces prosecution for 74 sexual abuse offences against 10 girls at the Adass Israel School – until she has completed psychiatric treatment that could go on for years.
On Thursday, Jerusalem District Court judge Amnon Cohen ruled that Leifer would receive outpatient treatment in Jerusalem after a report from the district psychiatrist found she was not mentally fit to face an extradition trial.
Leifer’s treatment in a Jerusalem clinic would begin next week and would last initially for six months.
She would receive up to five treatments during that time until a committee would assess whether she is fit to stand trial.
The court ruled this process could go on for up to 10 years. If the committee continually finds she is unfit to stand trial she may evade her extradition trial indefinitely.
Since the request for extradition first reached court on August 2014, Leifer has had five different psychiatric assessments.
Jewish Community Watch representative Shana Aaronson was shocked by the judge’s ruling.
“Disappointed isn’t really a strong enough word – for the victims in Australia this has dragged on and on for them and it’s horrible,” she said.
Aaronson was also worried Leifer may reoffend in Israel, given she would no longer be under house arrest.
“The thought they will put a predator right back into the community is insane,” she said.
The prosecution has been given 72 hours to return to the judge who made the original ruling on Leifer’s house arrest. By Israeli law the house arrest had to be lifted but other restrictions can be placed on Leifer.
During 10 court hearings in Jerusalem, Leifer has yet to appear – maintaining she faces anxiety each time a hearing approaches.
Manny Waks, who heads an organisation aiming to prevent sexual abuse in Jewish communities, said Leifer’s victims “feel outraged, devastated and completely let down by Israel’s legal system.
“They are also fearful of bumping into her on the street.”
Several of Leifer’s victims are living in Israel.
“It seems obvious that if Leifer is so unwell that she can’t even attend court, she needs to be in a psychiatric ward. And when she’s well enough, she should be brought before the court to face the long-overdue extradition hearing.
“This will ensure both justice for the alleged victims and the safety of Israel’s children,” Waks said.
Leifer headed Adass Israel School from 2003 until 2008 when she fled Australia.