ALLEGED child sexual abuser Malka Leifer has been ordered to stand trial on 70 charges of child sexual abuse after pleading not guilty in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
After a two-week committal hearing, Magistrate Johanna Metcalf ruled, “The evidence is of sufficient weight to commit Leifer for trial.” She will appear before the County Court of Victoria on October 21.
Asked by the magistrate how she intended to plea, Leifer responded: “Not” before continuing, “Not guilty.”
Thursday’s committal hearing heard from a current and former teacher at Adass Israel School, where Leifer was principal when she allegedly committed the offences between 2004 and 2008.
Originally facing 74 charges, the magistrate dropped four charges because those offences were allegedly committed in Israel.
Earlier this week, a counsellor told the committal hearing that she declined to divulge her recollections of counselling sessions with Leifer’s alleged sexual abuse victims because she feared legal action from the women.
In open court, testifying from Israel, social worker Chana Rabinowitz, a former Adass school counsellor, told Leifer’s barrister Ian Hill QC that when Victoria Police approached her for information in 2011, she had emailed back that she was concerned about releasing it, as she believed two of the alleged victims had made statements because they had been trying to receive a victims-of-crime grant, and she feared she might be sued.
“I guess I am a bit suspect that when someone is in something for the possible payoff, then perhaps in the future they will think to get money from me as well if they could,” she had emailed in 2011.
The hearing also took evidence from Mario Toledo, a former cleaner at the school, who confirmed he saw Leifer there on some Sundays, with one, two or three girls. However, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, Toledo said he never heard conversations between any of them. “I never paid any attention,” he stated.
Further coverage in next week’s AJN.