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Israel: Supreme Court Orders Sex-Offense Suspect Arrested Pending Decision on Extradition to Australia

(Mar. 27, 2018) On March 18, 2018, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Malka Leifer (the respondent), a former principal of a Jewish girls’ school in Melbourne, Australia, until a decision is made in her case regarding an extradition request by Australia. (Request 2003/18 Attorney General v. Malka Leifer, STATE OF ISRAEL: THE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY (in Hebrew).)

Background

The respondent fled to Israel in 2008, shortly before being indicted on 74 charges of child sexual abuse in Australia. She has managed to avoid extradition by claiming mental incapacity. (Supreme Court: Malka Leifer Must Remain in Prison, ARUTZ SHEVA (Mar. 21, 2018).)

On October 6, 2014, the Jerusalem District Court ordered that the respondent be released under house arrest subject to several conditions, including that she be supervised by her neighbor, Rabbi Yitzhak Grossman. The District Court issued the order having determined that the respondent did not pose a flight risk. This determination was based, among other things, on the “grant of a Halachic [Jewish law] decision by rabbinical personalities of great stature which prohibited [the respondent’s] escape, enabling it or providing her assistance in any way.” (Request 2003/18, ¶ 3 (translated by author).) On February 6, 2016, the Court ordered the cessation of extradition proceedings against the respondent on the basis of the regional psychiatrist’s determination that she was not competent to stand trial and obliged her to get treatment for a period of ten years. (Id. ¶ 4.)

Evidence contradicting the respondent’s alleged lack of competence to face legal proceedings was collected in a police operation undertaken at the request of Interpol and later presented to the District Court. (Supreme Court: Malka Leifer Must Remain in Prison, supra.) Subsequently, the District Court ordered a reevaluation of the respondent’s mental state in an inpatient psychiatric institution. The reevaluation produced a reversal of the prior psychiatric opinion and confirmed that the respondent did not need hospitalization and was legally competent to stand trial. (Request 2003/18 ¶¶ 7–9.) Accepting the psychiatric opinion, the District Court decided nevertheless to release the respondent from hospitalization and to subject her again to house arrest, considering the “spiritual supervision” she would be afforded by Rabbi Grossman and the Court’s perception that extended incarceration might affect her mental health. (Id. ¶ 12.)

The Attorney General appealed the ruling of the District Court.

Determination

Considering the apparent misrepresentation of the respondent as a mentally ill person and the need to prevent her from fleeing, the Supreme Court found no basis for ordering the respondent’s house arrest. This arrangement, according to Justice George Karra, had enabled the respondent’s previous misrepresentation and shielded her from extradition procedures. (Id. ¶ 17.) In Karra’s view, the respondent’s misrepresentation as a mentally ill person constituted an evasion and obstruction of justice in that the “success” of her misrepresentation had previously resulted in stopping the extradition proceedings against her and freeing her from any legal restrictions except for an injunction against leaving the country. (Id. ¶ 18.)

The respondent’s flight from Australia and fear of being extradited following the failure of her misrepresentation, according to Karra, made her an even stronger flight risk. Citing a previous Supreme Court decision, he noted that in evaluating the need for an arrest, the Court should consider the risk of flight and obstruction of justice that are inherent in the extradition process, as well as the public interest in fulfilling the state’s international obligations. (Id.)

Citing another prior decision on conditions for release under electronic supervision, Karra stressed the need for a court to trust a released person’s character and ability to commit and fulfill his or her obligations. Considering the circumstances in the present case, he concluded, there was no explanation for why the District Court decided to trust the respondent again, after she had severely betrayed the trust given to her the first time, when she was subjected to the minimal supervision conditions of house arrest. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Verdict

The respondent was ordered to be placed under arrest until a decision is made on the request to extradite her to Australia. (Id.)