Michael Danby’s speaks in Parliament on the arrest of Malka Leifer

February 16, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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In an adjournment speech in the House of Representatives, Michael Danby said he is pleased about the progress in the in case seeking extradition of alleged child sexual abuse Malka Leifer to Australia.

Leifer fled Melbourne in 2008 narrowly escaping facing 74 charges of sexual child abuse.

Malka Leifer

Danby told Parliament: “Normally when I see Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld on TV, I’m full of trepidation that some terrorist incident has happened.

This time, police commander Rosenfeld, when I saw him a couple of nights ago, I was pleased to see that the process of justice for survivors of sexual abuse, Dassi  Erlich, Nicole, Elly and others—constituents of mine—looks like it’s making progress. Policeman Rosenfeld, on TV from Jerusalem, was announcing the arrest of Malka Leifer, who was accused back in 2008 of molesting students at her school in Melbourne.

The announcement was followed by Judge Winograd ruling that the former principal remain in custody. But, instead of returning her to prison, he ordered that she be sent to a Jerusalem district mental health facility where she could be closely observed. The judge said that he needed a new in-depth assessment before deciding if Ms Leifer was too ill to face a new extradition hearing.

That’s precisely the advice that the brilliant Melbourne barrister, Amanda Mendes da Costa, gave survivors in the lobby of the King David Hotel in October, when we were there for the Battle of Beersheba commemoration. Mr Speaker, I must disclose an interest: that barrister is my wife.

Michael Danby

It’s very pleasing to see that all the work of the Australian government, supported by the opposition, together with the support of Israeli MKs Hilik Bar, Merav Michaeli, Michal Biran and Sharren Haskel—a non-partisan group from across their and our political spectrum—has helped justice distil itself in a society, which, like Australia, has a justice system and where justice will out. Dave Sharma, our past very capable Australian ambassador, was lobbying all through those years, as was I. But I particularly want to pay tribute to Dassi Erlich and the young women who, from completely non-political backgrounds, lobbied the Australian Prime Minister and former Premiers, went to see the Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, and did an extraordinary interview with Israeli Channel 10, which I think was the key catalyst that changed the willingness of the Israeli police to take on Ms Leifer.

In any system like Australia’s or Israel’s, people who face extradition hearings appear before psychiatric panels, and sometimes a three-hour psychiatric panel won’t give you a true evaluation of what’s happening. That’s why Justice Winograd’s decision to put the accused person under longer observation in a psychiatric facility so people can see how she behaves over time and whether she is in a fit condition to participate in an extradition hearing, is the right thing to do.

Dassi Erlich

It’s similar to what would be done in Australia, and it’s exactly what Amanda Mendes Da Costa suggested to the three survivors when we were talking about whether we should proceed with the apparently stalled Leifer case.

An Israeli court has said that Leifer should stay under psychiatric evaluation until further notice. Ultimately, after she is found fit and the extradition hearing makes it’s decision, the absconded principal should be returned to Australia, a country friendly to Israel, to face charges that were made against her in 2008. I’m very pleased that the survivors won’t be left hanging and that this issue will not be left in the air.

The rule of law in Australia and Israel is a mark that distinguishes our open and democratic societies. Fairness needs to be shown to this person, but fairness needs to be shown to the survivors as well.

I want to say one thing in conclusion about the Adass community from which she and the survivors come: I don’t want them to be scapegoated or stereotyped. They’re a very orthodox, religious community. They have a perfect right, in Australian society, to practise their beliefs as they see fit. I notice that SBS TV did an excellent and very fair program on them, which screened as a documentary some months ago.

We can have justice for the survivors of alleged sexual abuse. We can have it take place over there where Leifer will be fairly psychiatrically evaluated and observed over a period of time and then face an extradition trial to be brought back to Australia.”


2 Responses to “Michael Danby’s speaks in Parliament on the arrest of Malka Leifer”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    Mr Danby isn’t Amanda your wife?

    However this is good news but the others here in Australia who assisted this alleged pedophile headmistress to exit Australia so quickly will have to face justice too.

    They appear to be accessory to the crime after the fact or was it during the fact too?

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