Leifer jury asks for deadlock direction after 14 hours of deliberations

A jury in the high-profile case of Malka Leifer, the ultra-Orthodox school principal accused of sexually abusing three former students, has been told to continue deliberations after they asked for advice in the event they were deadlocked.

A note passed to staff working for County Court judge Mark Gamble told the court on Tuesday that they seemed “unlikely” to reach a unanimous decision and asked if they could instead return a majority vote.

A sketch of Malka Leifer in the County Court earlier this year.Credit:Mollie McPherson/Nine News

The note, read out in court by Gamble, said: “At this point in deliberations the jury seems unlikely to reach a unanimous decision on all charges. Can you please offer direction on a deadlock? Is it possible we can use a majority vote on the charges?”

Gamble told the jury, who have been considering the 27 charges for 14 hours since March 22, that they would have to return to the jury room to continue their deliberations.

“What I do urge you to do is to return to the jury room and try to resolve your differences. Experience has shown that juries can often agree if given more time to consider, having discussed the issues,” Gamble said.

“Each of you has affirmed or sworn that you will get a true jury according to the evidence. That is an important responsibility.

“Although I have the power to dismiss you without a verdict having been reached, I should only do this if I’m satisfied that you will not be able to agree on a verdict, even if you are given more time for discussion. I am not yet satisfied that this is the case.”

Leifer, a mother of eight, is standing trial on allegations that between 2003 and 2007, she abused three sisters who were students at the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick. She has maintained her innocence and pleaded not guilty to all 27 charges, including rape.

Gamble earlier in the trial acquitted Leifer on two charges relating to Elly Sapper after the evidence produced a discrepancy in the timing of the counts.

The alleged victims – sisters Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Elly 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 the abuse continued after they were chosen by Leifer to return as junior religious teachers.

If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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