Associated Press [New York NY]
July 21, 2023
By Rod McGuirk
A former principal of an Australian Jewish school will be sentenced on Aug. 24 after being convicted of sexually abusing two students.
Judge Mark Gamble set the date Friday after a third day of submissions on what sentence Malka Leifer should receive following her convictions by a Victoria state jury in early April.
Leifer’s sentencing is potentially the final chapter of an extended battle that tested Israeli-Australian relations over efforts to bring the 56-year-old Israeli citizen to justice.
Leifer abused sisters Dassi Erlick and Elly Sapper between 2003 and 2007 while she was principal of Melbourne’s ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel School for girls, the jury found.
The sisters told the court last month that being sexually abused by Leifer broke their ability to trust and was painful to remember.
The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sexual abuse, but the sisters have chosen to identify themselves in the media.
Leifer returned to Israel in 2008 as the allegations surfaced and fought Australia’s application to extradite her through Jerusalem courts from 2014 until January 2021, when she was flown from Israel with her wrists and ankles shackled.
The Tel Aviv-born mother of eight has been in custody since she returned to Australia and has denied all charges.
She was convicted on six charges of rape, each carrying up to 25 years in prison. She was convicted on three charges of sexual penetration of a child, each carrying a potential 10-year sentence, and six charges of indecent assault, which also carries a 10-year sentence. She was also convicted on three charges of committing an indecent act with a child, which is punishable by 5 years in prison. There are no minimum sentences.
In deciding an appropriate sentence, Gamble will take into account the 52 days she spent in Israeli custody and 608 days in home detention before she returned to Australia.
Prosecutor Justin Lewis had argued that Leifer deserved less credit for her time spent in detention in Israel because she had delayed the extradition process for years by allegedly feigning mental illness.
Prosecutors submitted to Gamble the rulings of the Supreme Court of Israel and District Court of Jerusalem that found she was mentally fit to stand trial.
The courts’ decisions were based on psychiatric reports that Leifer had feigned mental illness to avoid extradition.
Gamble said Israeli psychiatrists accepted that Leifer had suffered from an adjustment disorder, anxiety and depression since her arrest.
But neither the courts nor psychiatrists considered whether these conditions influenced her decision to exaggerate her mental illness to avoid extradition, Gamble said.