MALKA Leifer does not want to be physically present at a hearing to determine whether she stands trial on child sex abuse charges.
Leifer’s lawyer Lucinda Thies told a special-mention hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court last Friday her client prefers to take part by video link.
Extradited from Israel earlier this year, Leifer, 54, who faces 74 charges relating to child sexual abuse at the Adass Israel school between 2004-08, is at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre women’s prison in Melbourne. She maintains she is innocent. By permission, she did not take part in the brief July 30 court session.
Thies said, “My client is not seeking to be physically present, indeed it would be her preference to appear via video link” at a hearing, which has been set down for five days from September 13. The three women allegedly abused by Leifer have previously indicated they want to be present in court.
Magistrate Johanna Metcalf said that “the only issue there may be the ability of the prison to accommodate full-day video links”.
Thies told the court she has been appearing for another client, who like Leifer, is in custody at the Frost Centre, and has been appearing by video for full days without issues.
“As I understand it, there are presently restrictions in place in which someone coming to court would be put into 14-day quarantine on returning, so there may be a number of prisoners in that similar situation,” said Thies.
Metcalf noted that due to “the state of the pandemic … the court has to take into account the possible safety risks in transportation”.
“If it is the accused’s preference to attend the hearing by video link, then the court accepts that as the appropriate mode of appearance,” she stated.
After Leifer’s lawyers had applied in May for the release of medical details relating to Dassi Erlich, one of Leifer’s alleged victims, lawyer Nanette Rogers noted on Friday her medical details were likely to arise in the defence’s arguments.
She said Erlich had contacted the Office of Public Prosecutions “and advised that she did not want her private medical details in the public domain, as publication of those details were likely to be detrimental to her emotional and mental health”.
Metcalf granted an interim media suppression order relating to Erlich’s medical details and adjourned the court to August 9 when she will further consider the matter.