RABBI Baruch Lesches has told the Royal Commission that when a 12-year-old girl complained to him about being sexually abused he had his doubts about her story because “she was prone to bend the truth to get out of trouble”.
“One morning, the girl came to speak to me about an incident involving Daniel Hayman. She said that Daniel Hayman had come to her bed but did not go into any more detail,” Rabbi Lesches, who was the head of Yeshiva Gedola in Sydney in the late 1980s, stated.
“Given my knowledge of the girl and the nature of her complaint I had my doubts and I asked her if perhaps it was imagined or a dream.”
In a document tendered at the Royal Commission, the girl’s parents told police that when their daughter woke up, Hayman was stroking his hand up and down her leg and that Rabbi Lesches told them that he “thinks she made it all up or dreamt it”.
Hayman has since been convicted in relations to another child sexual abuse matter in Sydney in the late 1980s.
Rabbi Lesches, who did not contact police at the time, conceded “having now read the girl’s statement to police it has become clear to me that Daniel Hayman’s actions went much further than I had understood at the time”.
The Royal Commission previously heard that prior to this incident a group of boys had complained to Rabbi Lesches that Hayman had abused them. In his statement, Rabbi Lesches said he had no recollection of such a conversation.
Rabbi Lesches, who lives in the US, was asked to appear via video link at the Royal Commission but refused.
Instead he gave a written witness statement on February 11, several days after the Royal Commission stopped hearing testimony regarding cases of child sexual abuse in Sydney.
In Melbourne a Yeshivah Centre spokesperson said that, following Rabbi Avrohom Glick’s decision to stand down, changes are afoot.
“We will have an announcement about substantive initiatives in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.