Australia court jails former principal for 15 years for child sex crimes

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian court on Thursday sentenced the former principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish School to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing two students, media reported.

Malka Leifer was in April found guilty of 18 sexual offences including rape, indecent assault and penetration of a child aged 16 or 17. A jury cleared her of nine other charges.

Leifer, 56, former principal of the Adass Israel School, had pleaded not guilty to all charges. Leifer, who also holds Israeli citizenship, was extradited to Australia from Israel in 2021 after fleeing in 2008 when the accusations surfaced.

Victoria county court judge Mark Gamble set a non-parole period of 11 years and six months but said he would take the 2,069 days she already served into account, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

Three sisters accused Leifer of sexually abusing them on the grounds of the school in Melbourne, in locked staff offices, on school camps and at Leifer's home between 2003 and 2007, when they were teenagers.

The court found Leifer guilty of offences against two of them.

"Our expectations were so low because female perpetrators are so under reported and we have nothing to base it on and we just felt very grateful that we actually felt validated in that exact moment," one of the complainants told reporters outside the court after the verdict.

(Reporting by Renju Jose and Stefica Nicol Bikes in Sydney; editing by Robert Birsel)