Leifer’s defence may pursue her fitness to stand trial
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Former Adass principal

Leifer’s defence may pursue her fitness to stand trial

Malka Leifer, extradited from Israel to Australia earlier this year, has pleaded not guilty to at least 70 charges relating to child sexual abuse allegedly occurring between 2004 and 2008.

A court sketch of Malka Leifer appearing in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court via
video link in January. Image: Courtesy Nine
A court sketch of Malka Leifer appearing in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court via video link in January. Image: Courtesy Nine

DEFENCE lawyers for Malka Leifer are considering obtaining expert advice about her fitness to stand trial, the County Court of Victoria heard last week.

In an online directions hearing last Thursday, Judicial Registrar Matthew Phillips asked barrister Ian Hill QC, appearing for Leifer, “There’s an indication that you may or will be seeking a report considering your client’s fitness to stand trial. Is that a course that you are pursuing?”

Hill responded, “It’s still a course that we’re considering.” Asked by Phillips how much longer it would be until the defence decides to follow that avenue, Hill said, “We’ll certainly have an answer by the time that this matter next comes before the court.”

Describing Leifer’s fitness to stand trial as “a particularly key issue”, Phillips said it was necessary, due to “the length of time your client’s been in custody” to “progress it as quickly as we can and move to getting some trial documents and things in place”.

Hill also told the court it was “troubling” that the Crown “have said they propose to rely upon post-conduct offending”. He said until the defence sees the indictment and other documents, matters cannot be taken further.

The hearing was told that the trial of Leifer, a former Adass Israel School principal, will take “about three-to-four weeks” and will definitely be held next year.

Leifer, extradited from Israel to Australia earlier this year, has pleaded not guilty to at least 70 charges relating to child sexual abuse allegedly occurring at the school between 2004 and 2008, when she left Australia.

With the agreement of the legal teams, Phillips made an order for the indictment to be filed by February 11 and the defence’s response by March 4, adjourning the matter to a directions hearing in the County Court on March 16.

Leifer will continue to be held in custody.

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