Malka Leifer’s barrister has told a jury that the three sisters who have alleged they were abused by the former ultra-Orthodox school principal have been uncooperative with the court process and have not answered questions directly or responsibly.
Defence barrister Ian Hill, KC, continued his closing address to the jury in the Victorian County Court on Friday, saying the jury was being asked to convict Leifer, 56, beyond reasonable doubt when her accusers “can’t recall things that you would expect them to recall if these events had actually occurred”.
Malka Leifer has pleaded not guilty to child abuse charges.
“You might have some reservations about a witness who will, as these complainants have demonstrated time and time again, be really unco-operative with the court process by not answering directly, and responsibly, and responsively, questions asked,” Hill told the jury.
“You might turn your mind to that and ask why, and it’s obvious in our respectful submission, that over time, the affection that they had for Mrs Leifer that clearly has turned into an animus in their attention seeking.
“Look at their answers: when asked simple questions about their recollection – and it’s their recollections that you are being asked to convict beyond reasonable doubt on – where they can’t recall things that you would expect them to recall if these events had actually occurred.”
Ian Kill, KC (right), outside the County Court on Friday.Credit:Paul Jeffers
Leifer, a mother of eight, is standing trial on allegations that between 2003 and 2007, she abused three students who attended the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick. She has consistently maintained her innocence and pleaded not guilty to all 29 charges, including rape.
Judge Mark Gamble on Monday acquitted Leifer on charges 20 and 21, which had alleged she committed indecent acts with a 16 or 17-year-old, and which were related to one of the sisters, Elly Sapper.
The complainants – sisters Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Sapper – have provided permission to The Age to be identified.
Police allege the sisters were abused during their final years at the Adass Israel School and that it continued after they were chosen by Leifer to return as junior religious teachers.
She can remember that sort of detail, but she can’t recall what you might think relevant detail as to the actual circumstances … Who was there? Who saw her being pulled away? Who saw her when she came back?
Prosecutor Justin Lewis finished his closing address on Thursday.
Hill said on Friday the sisters’ allegations against Leifer had been imagined over a long period of time.
“Is it really being suggested that there was inappropriate touching in the presence of all these other women from the community which went unobserved? And if it was observed, where are the witnesses to this?” he said.
A court sketch of Malka Leifer in the County Court last month.Credit:Mollie McPherson/Nine News
“Would a respected person, and without a blemish to her record, risk such behaviour in the presence of others, and for what reason? These are, we say, things that have been imagined over the course of a long period of time.”
Hill drew attention to differences in recollection in the complainants’ statements to police, some of which were very detailed, with their responses to his questions under cross-examination. He told the jury the sisters frequently replied to his questions that they did not recall information.
“Then we took [Erlich] to actually what she’d written in her statement: ‘It’s a sunny afternoon with a slight chill in the air. Even with the cold wind, the lure of the sparkling water beckons us to jump into the pool’,” Hill said, quoting Erlich’s statement.
Prosecutor Justin Lewis outside the County Court on Friday.Credit:Paul Jeffers
“She can remember that sort of detail, but she can’t recall what you might think relevant detail as to the actual circumstances … Who was there? Who saw her being pulled away? Who saw her when she came back?”
On Thursday, Lewis told the jury Leifer knew the sisters were vulnerable and used that knowledge of their vulnerability to emotionally manipulate and sexually abuse them for her own sexual gratification.
“Knowing that they were neglected at home, she pretended that she loved them and told them that she was helping them,” the prosecutor said during his closing address.
“She manipulated their emotions while abusing them for her own sexual gratification.
“These sisters had a miserable home life and so far as the accused was concerned, they were ripe for the picking.”
The trial continues.
If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article