Sunday, May 08, 2016

Fight to extradite ultra-orthodox Jewish school principal accused of molesting and raping students dropped 

proceedings against a fugitive school principal accused of molesting and raping students at an ultra-orthodox Jewish school have been dropped.

In a major blow to Victorian authorities an Israeli court ruled overnight that it would suspend extradition hearings against Malka Leifer because she is unfit to stand trial.

It means the former principal of Elsternwick’s Adass Israel Girls School may never face justice.

Authorities have been fighting for her return to Victoria since 2014, but Ms Leifer has told family and friends she would never return to Australia.

She fled under the cover of night just days after one of her alleged victims spoke out about her abuse for the first time in 2008.

Some school officials helped organise Ms Leifer’s escape.

Since extraditions proceedings commenced, Ms Leifer has missed all seven hearings in the Jerusalem District Court.

After suspending the extradition proceedings, Justice Amnon Cohen ordered another psychiatric evaluation of Mrs Leifer to consider further treatment.

Proceedings could continue if a government-appointed review board rules her psychological state has improved.

Victims’ rights advocates slammed the decision.

“Either Leifer is well enough to face justice or she is hospitalised until she is ready to do so,” Manny Waks said.

Mr Waks, himself a sexual abuse victim, is the founder of Kol v’Oz, an Israeli organization that addresses the issue of child sexual abuse within Jewish communities around the world.

“There should be no alternative. This case has dragged on for far too long and we need some finality,” he said.

“We need to put the interests and wellbeing of the alleged victims ahead of the interests and wellbeing of the alleged perpetrator.”

Ms Leifer, a mother of eight, has been publicly accused of molesting a string of girls, including three sisters.

Last year the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded one of the girls $1 million in damages over the abuse.

The windfall is believed to be the single biggest payout to a Victorian victim of child sexual abuse.

Former Supreme Court judge Justice Jack Rush today described Ms Leifer’s breach of trust as “monstrous” and ordered she personally pay $150,000 in damages to the former student.

“The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that the conduct of Leifer was committed in circumstances of contumelious disregard of the plaintiff,” he said.

“I have described Leifer’s conduct previously as a massive breach of trust, yet this description does not adequately set out the destructive and evil nature of her sexual abuse of the plaintiff.

“The evidence discloses the sole motivation of Leifer in her dealings with the plaintiff was her own sexual gratification.

“Leifer used her position of power and authority within the school to manipulate the plaintiff’s sense of vulnerability.”

Justice Rush also slammed the school’s board for its co-operation in helping Ms Leifer flee Australia and avoid facing justice.


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