19 April, 2024
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Trial begins for ex-Orthodox principal Malka Leifer


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The trial has begun for former ultra-Orthodox Jewish school principal Malka Leifer, who is accused of sexually abusing three ex-students.

A jury of 15 has been empanelled to hear the case, expected to last up to six weeks, in Victoria’s County Court.

Prosecutors Justin Lewis and Stephanie Clancy are expected to open the case against Leifer, 56, on Wednesday after Judge Mark Gamble finishes directing jurors on their role.

Leifer’s barristers Ian Hill KC and Lucinda Thies will then open their case.

Wearing a long black skirt, a black and gold lurex jumper and her hair in a black wrap, Leifer sat in the court holding a small book as Judge Mark Gamble addressed the jurors on Wednesday.

He told them to put aside any sympathy or prejudice they might feel toward or against any party and determine the case using their intellect, not their hearts.

“Do not guess. While we might be willing to act on the basis of guesses in our daily lives, it is not safe to do so in a criminal trial,” he said.

Leifer is facing 29 charges, including 10 of rape, one of rape by compelled sexual penetration, three charges of sexual penetration of a 16 or 17-year-old child, 10 of indecent assault, and five of indecent assault of a 16 or 17-year-old child.

The alleged offending is said to have occurred between 2003 and 2007.

“Mrs Leifer has pleaded not guilty to each of these charges and so it is for you and you alone to decide whether she is guilty or not guilty of these crimes,” Judge Gamble said.

The jury is made up of eight men and seven women.

While additional jurors have been empanelled to allow for sickness or other reasons a juror might not be able to see the trial to its end, only 12 will be asked to consider a verdict.


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