- According to Israeli Law, for a legal matter to proceed, a defendant must be present in court.
- There is a legal debate in Israel whether this law is only applicable in local Israeli matters or also in international cases.
- This is the first time the Israeli legal system has been faced with this scenario – it has never had to deal with an extradition case being stopped due to the apparent mental health of a defendant.
- Currently, one judge in the case has ruled that the Leifer extradition case may proceed even though Leifer is apparently unable to be present in court, while another judge has ruled that Leifer must be fit to attend court. At this stage, the third judge believes it is unnecessary to give their ruling on the matter and that it should be resolved through government legislation.
- It is important to emphasise that, as per the court ruling, Leifer has monthly psychiatric assessments by a psychiatrist from the Israeli public service (the ruling is for 10 years). There have been two such psychiatrists involved in this monthly process.
- As per the court ruling, every six months, a three-member government-appointed psychiatric committee (a member from the legal fraternity and a psychiatrist from both the private and public sectors) reviews the information from Leifer’s monthly assessments, sees Leifer briefly and makes a determination as to her current mental state. This committee is the sole decision-maker (not the Judge or the Court).
- At this stage, the Israeli judicial system is precluded from getting directly involved.
- There are two options that would force Leifer to face the much-sought extradition hearing. First, if her psychiatric assessors state that Leifer’s mental health has improved to a satisfactory level. Second, if there is sufficient evidence that she has been misleading the court and/or her psychiatrists regarding her mental state.
- Nothing can be done at this stage to prevent Leifer from teaching in Israel or being in contact with children, as the matter is no longer before the court.
- Significant work is continuing by many stakeholders, publicly and privately, to ensure justice is achieved and that Leifer is not a risk to children around her.
As a follow-up to my recent blog post titled Some caution regarding the Malka Leifer case, where I argued against blaming the Israeli government for the Leifer scandal, I have now been provided with the following additional important information:
I don't think it's fair to criticise the Israeli government for the fact that Malka Leifer is seemingly playing the system. The last thing we'd want is government interference with the judicial process. The only realistic action the government can take is to introduce legislation. And this isn't simple, nor does it guarantee that an accused can't play the system (especially when they're practically fighting for their life).
It seems that currently the main issue in this case is the judge's inexplicable decision to place no restrictions on Leifer (she's only prohibited from leaving the country). Her complete freedom is a slap in the face to her alleged victims and makes her a potential threat to children on a daily basis.
While all action to expedite Leifer's extradition to Australia may be helpful, especially the recent public lobbying of the Israeli government at all levels (including by some of her courageous alleged victims and senior Australian government officials), it's important to ensure that our expectations and responses are appropriate and realistic.
And let's not forget the Adass Israel School's culpability in all of this. As Victorian Supreme Court Justice Jack Rush said in his 2015 civil case ruling: "It is apparent that the persons involved were determined to get Leifer out of the country within a matter of hours of the decision to remove her from her position at the school" and "[i]n such circumstances the alleged perpetrator should not be assisted to urgently flee the jurisdiction. The failure of the board to report the allegations to police prior to arranging Leifer’s urgent departure is deplorable."
Despite this clear ruling, Adass is yet to publicly acknowledge its sordid past and apologise to its many victims and survivors (and the broader Jewish community for bringing it into disrepute).
Hopefully the ongoing police investigation into the Adass leadership will achieve justice.
We will continue to do what we can to ensure Leifer faces (belated) justice and that she ceases to be a potential threat to children.