Mahmoud Illean/AP

Malka Leifer Sentenced To 15 Years For Child Sex Abuse

Former Melbourne school principal, Malka Leifer has just been sentenced to 15 years behind bars for child sexual abuse. 

County Court Judge Mark Gamble imposed a non-parole period of 11 and a half years, but with time served, Leifer will be eligible for parole in less than six years. 

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Leifer, the former principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, was convicted in April on 18 counts of sexual assault against sisters Elly Sapper and Dassi Erlich. 

The sisters were high school students and junior religious studies teachers at Adass Israel School in Elsternwick (Melbourne’s Inner East) between 2003 and 2007.  

Leifer joined the school in 2001 and was appointed principal in 2003. In March 2008, the school board was alerted to allegations against Leifer by a school worker, claiming that members of the Adass community had paid for her and her family to flee Australia. 

In 2021, Sapper provided a statement to Victoria Police regarding allegations of sexual abuse by Leifer, with her sisters also making statements shortly after. Leifer was first arrested in Israel in 2014 after Australia requested her extradition, but the proceedings were initially dismissed in 2016 as she was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial for extradition. 

According to The Times of Israel, two psychiatrists reported to the District Court in February 2018 that “Leifer did not suffer from a mental illness in the legal sense and was feigning her psychiatric condition to prevent her extradition to Australia”. 

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A total of 74 hearings were held in Israeli courts. In December 2020, Israel’s Justice Minister finally approved Leifer’s extradition, claiming that “it’s our moral duty to allow the Australian legal authorities to put her on trial”. 

After many years of legal battle, Leifer was extradited to Australia in January 2021, over a decade after fleeing to Israel. 

She was committed to stand trial in September 2021, and in February 2023, the trial began with the sisters providing evidence in closed court. 

In March 2023, following six weeks of hearing evidence, jurors deliberated over nine days before handing down their 18 guilty verdicts.  

Today, Leifer was found guilty of 18 offences against sisters Elly Sapper and Dassi Erlich between 2003 and 2007. 

She did not appear in the Victorian County court for sentencing, rather appearing via video-link from the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. 

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