A Gippsland primary school teacher has been sentenced to five and a half years’ jail for his “relentless” sexual offences against two girls.
Craig Liefting, 49, of Inverloch, pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent acts against the two girls that occurred between 2013 and 2016.
The girls were in Grade 1 when the abuse started.
The County Court of Victoria was told Liefting began teaching in Gippsland in 2002 and had a reputation for favouring and being affectionate with his female students.
On a transition day in 2013, one of his Grade 1 students went to him to seek comfort after her new teacher made her cry.
“You seated her on your lap and proceeded to put your hands down her pants,” Judge Anne Hassan said during sentencing.
The court was told he sought out his second victim in the school yard and began indecently touching her in 2014 when she was in Grade 1.
“[The victim] was made by you, to hide under your desk in your office,” Judge Hassan said.
“You wheeled your chair over to her and undid the zip of your trousers and exposed your penis.”
Abused for two years
The court was told Liefting touched the girl’s genitals on most days over a period of about two years and that she felt “entirely powerless” to stop him.
“You would get soap from the bathroom and ask her not to wear underwear,” Judge Hassan told the court.
In 2014, Liefting was supervising a student sleepover in the library at school when he touched the girls’ genitals, only stopping when other students entered the room.
A staff member went to the principal with concerns about Liefting after he was seen with his hand up a student’s dress, but he denied the allegations.
He was arrested in October 2019 while working at another primary school and gave a “no comment” interview to police.
In her victim impact statement, one of the girls said she felt broken and used, had feelings of self-hatred and had “come close to killing herself”.
The other victim said in her statement that she was now “on guard when dealing with male teachers and men”.
The County Court was told Liefting grew up in a strict Pentecostal Christian household and rejected his parents’ religious beliefs.
In a letter submitted to the court Liefting said: “I understand that I have caused two young people great emotional hurt and confusion and I apologise to these young people unreservedly.”
But a report by his clinical psychologist found Liefting thought of his victims as willing participants.
Liefting must serve at least three and a half years in prison, and will remain a registered serious sex offender for the rest of his life.
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