Australia Sentences Former Principal of Orthodox Jewish School to 15 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault

The 56-year-old teacher faced 18 charges, including rape and indecent assault

Former Israeli school principal Malka Leifer has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting two students at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Australia. The 56-year-old teacher faced 18 charges, including rape and indecent assault, relating to incidents between 2004 and 2007 involving two female students, as reported by the Times of Israel.

Malka Leifer

In the extensive trial, Judge Mark Gamble described Leifer's actions as "insidious," emphasizing the long-lasting trauma inflicted on the two sisters. He noted, "This case stands out for the extreme vulnerability of the victims and the calculated way in which Mrs. Leifer heartlessly exploited this vulnerability for her own perverse satisfaction."

Appearing in a prison jumpsuit of light blue, Leifer attended the sentencing via video link from a secure prison in Melbourne. Her defense lawyer, Ian Hill, previously asserted that Leifer denied "all alleged criminal behavior described by the complainants," maintaining that her interactions with the students were "of a professional nature." The sequence of events began in 2007 when one of the sisters, Dassi Erlich, sought therapy due to recurring nightmares and anxiety stemming from her high school years. Subsequently, Erlich's counselor alerted both the school and a teacher in Melbourne, both of whom were convinced that Leifer had engaged in inappropriate conduct and crossed established boundaries.

As a dual citizen of Israel and Australia, Leifer consistently rejected the accusations. However, when rumors of her actions began circulating, she fled to her native Israel with her four children, successfully evading extradition efforts that spanned over 70 hearings.

In 2021, she was eventually returned to Australia and found guilty on 18 out of 27 charges related to sexual abuse against Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper, the two sisters. Another charge involving a third sister, Nicole Meyer, resulted in an acquittal by the jury.

According to the judge's ruling, Leifer must serve a minimum of 11 and a half years in prison before being considered for early release. Once released from Victoria State Prison, she will be deported to Israel. Additionally, the judge credited her with 2,069 days of time already served in custody in both Australia and Israel.

Judge Gamble also read a statement from Elly Sapper, the other sister involved, detailing the profound impact of the abuse on her emotional well-being. Sapper expressed feelings of profound brokenness, shame, and enduring haunting flashbacks due to the traumatic experience. She conveyed that she continued to hold herself responsible for allowing Leifer's manipulation and felt ashamed for not intervening at the time.