Alleged victims of Malka Leifer give evidence in Melbourne court
The alleged victims of accused child abuser Malka Leifer have started to give evidence against her in her committal hearing in a Melbourne court.
Leifer, the 55-year-old former principal of a Melbourne ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls school, is charged with 74 offences against three sisters between 2004 and 2008.
On Monday, she appeared before the Melbourne magistrates court via video link from custody for the first day of her committal hearing. The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence against her for a trial to occur in a higher court.
The court was closed for most of the day while the first of her three alleged victims gave evidence. The alleged victims, Dassi Erlich, Elly Saper and Nicole Meyer, have given permission to be identified, but the court will still be closed during their evidence.
In the short period before the court was closed, Leifer only spoke to confirm she could hear the proceedings. She sat with her head bowed, with only her white head covering, worn as a sign of modesty, and blue jumper visible on screen.
Leifer faces multiple counts of rape, indecent assault and other serious sexual offences relating to her time as principal of the Adass Israel ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls school, in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick. The offences are alleged to have occurred in the same suburb at the school and in three regional settings.
Leifer moved to Israel in 2008 after allegations of the abuse surfaced. She was charged with criminal offences in 2012, but a long battle for her extradition only ended earlier this year when she returned to Melbourne.
The other witnesses due to give evidence during her committal are Dr Vicki Gordon, a clinical psychologist who has described herself as a “whistleblower” in regard to the sexual abuse allegations, Esther Spiegelmen and Sharon Bromberg, who were teachers at the school at the time of the alleged abuse, and Chana Rabinowitz, a former counsellor at the school, who will give evidence from Israel.
Ian Hill QC, for Leifer, was granted permission for her to not attend the hearing on Thursday, which marks the sacred day of Yom Kippur. Other Jewish witnesses will also be excused from giving evidence.
The court also heard that Leifer’s accusers would not request to give evidence without being able to see her. Alleged victims of sexual abuse can request not to see the accused during their evidence in Victorian court hearings.
The committal is expected to last a week.