Witness reluctant to make Leifer statement

·2-min read

An ex-school counsellor did not want to make a statement against former ultra-Orthodox school principal Malka Leifer because she thought she could be pursued for money, a court has heard.

Leifer, 55, is facing 74 charges of child sexual abuse involving three sisters during her time at Melbourne's Adass Israel School between 2004 and 2008.

On Monday former Adass Israel School counsellor Chana Rabinowitz gave evidence via videolink from Israel.

Under cross-examination, she agreed police had asked her to give a statement 10 years ago, but she had emailed them expressing reluctance.

"I am not sure I want to go on record and testify ... I have been warned I could be sued," she told investigators, according to an email read in Melbourne Magistrates Court.

She said in the 2011 emails that she believed two of the alleged victims had made statements because they had been trying to get a victims of crime grant.

"I guess I am a bit suspect that when someone is in something for a possible payoff, then they might go to me to get money if they could," she emailed police.

Ms Rabinowitz testified that she did not remember the emails, but agreed that she had been warned not to go on the record, because the alleged victims might pursue her for money.

She did make a police statement in April 2021, acknowledging that it related to events from 13-15 years earlier, about which she did not have contemporaneous notes.

But she told the court she still had some old emails from the time from one of the alleged victims, that were "graphic and emotional," and "full of her personal anguish".

During her evidence, defence lawyer Ian Hill QC repeatedly warned Ms Rabinowitz that her husband should not prompt her about what to say to the court.

"You appreciate these are important matters and you are giving evidence on oath," he said.

Witnesses and Leifer, who is currently in Melbourne's women's prison, the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, are all appearing by video link.

The three sisters have previously given evidence in closed court.

Leifer's committal hearing will resume on Thursday.

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