Former Melbourne principal Malka Leifer to stand trial on 70 child sex abuse charges

The 55-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charges at the end of a committal hearing in Melbourne on Thursday.

Israeli-born Australian Malka Leifer, right, is brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem in February 2018.

Leifer, a former school principal extradited from Israel after a six-year legal battle, has appeared in an Australian court. Source: AP

Former ultra-orthodox school principal Malka Leifer has been ordered to stand trial on 70 child sexual abuse charges.

The 55-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charges at the end of a committal hearing in Melbourne on Thursday.

Four charges were withdrawn by prosecutors after it became clear during the evidence that those alleged incidents occurred in Israel.

The allegations relate to sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper during Leifer's time at Melbourne's Adass Israel School between 2004 and 2008.

Magistrate Johanna Metcalf said she believed the evidence presented during a hearing, which heard from all three sisters in closed court, was of sufficient weight to support a conviction.

Leifer's case will now go to Victoria's County Court for a first hearing on 21 October.

During the hearing on Thursday, Ms Erlich's former husband joshua Erlich gave evdience about a "panicked" phone call he said his then-wife made to her sister Nicole Meyer when the lived in Israel in 2008.

Ms Erlich had been seeing social worker Chana Rabinowitz, who had previously counselled students at the Adass Israel School.

He said he overheard a phone call between the sisters after one session, in which his wife had seemed "panicked" about something she had told Ms Rabinowitz about her relationship with Leifer.

Sisters Elly Sapir, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer say they are bruised but not broken by the battle to bring Malka Leifer to justice.
Source: AAP

"She was very concerned about what was going to happen next and she was not sure why it was being taken in such a serious way."

He said he believed Ms Erlich had tried to persuade Ms Rabinowitz not to do anything about it, but that she had also confirmed her sister Nicole could corroborate the information.

Mr Erlich said he believed Nicole had confirmed the information - which was not detailed in open court - and the school administration had been notified.

Leifer was stood down in 2008 and returned to Israel before charges were laid. She was extradited to Australia earlier this year to face charges.

The couple later separated, beginning divorce proceedings in 2011, after Ms Erlich decided to move away from religious observance.

Mr Erlich said Ms Erlich had previously described Leifer as taking the place of a mother, sharing that school had given the sisters respite from troubles at home with their mother.

He said he heard Leifer had hugged her, rubbed her thighs and gave her "special attention" but didn't find it particularly concerning.

"If she had said it was under the clothes or something of that nature I would have been concerned," he said.

"I don't believe she would have said anything like that to me."

Leifer remains in custody at Melbourne's women's prison, the Dame Phyillis Frost Centre.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at BeyondBlue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.

Anyone seeking information or support relating to sexual abuse can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.


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Published 23 September 2021 at 4:40pm, updated 23 September 2021 at 5:59pm
Source: AAP - SBS

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