Principal accused of 74 child offences walks free

Principal accused of 74 child offences walks free

A former Melbourne principal living in Israel, and who is wanted by Victorian police for multiple charges of indecent assault and rape, will not face extradition back to Australia.

Malka Leifer was the principal of the Adass Israel School in Melbourne but fled Australia in 2008 following accusations of sexual abuse against her students.

It was alleged that senior members of the school had helped Leifer arrange a flight to Israel in the middle of the night with her family. She was arrested by Israeli police in August 2014 at the request of the Australian government and was placed under house arrest.

However, 10 subsequent extradition proceedings have failed to see her returned to face charges. The former principal claimed to experience panic attacks whenever the court date approached, prompting her lawyer to argue against any extradition for the sake of Leifer’s psychological health.

Last Thursday, a long-awaited report from the district psychiatrist agreed Leifer was mentally unwell and ruled she would not face an extradition hearing until she had completed psychiatric treatment – a process that may drag on for years.

The Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv has said it is studying the judgement closely and assessing its implications, however, Australian officials have said they are shocked and deeply concerned by the court’s decision.

Ambassador, Dave Sharma, told the ABC that the Embassy was discussing the next step with the Israeli State Attorney's office.

“We are committed to seeing this woman extradited to Australia to face these very serious child sex abuse charges,” he said.

“We are determined to be patient and persevere to this end with the view to seeing her extradited.”

At a hearing in February, Israeli prosecutor, Avital Ribner Oron, challenged Leifer's medical claims, telling the judge she believed the former principal was “faking” her illness in order to have the case dismissed.