Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Aus Tamil woman gets more years in jail for ‘enslaving’ elderly Indian

An Australian Tamil woman has been sentenced to additional two-and-a-half years in prison after being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice during a slavery investigation.

Kumuthini Kannan, 55, and her husband Kandasamy Kannan from Mount Waverley were convicted and jailed in 2021 after an Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation established the couple had kept a victim as a slave for eight years.

The couple had forced the victim from Tamil Nadu to live in squalid conditions, while cooking, cleaning and caring for their children before she collapsed.

Believed to be in her sixties now, the victim was admitted to hospital with severe malnourishment, diabetes and gangrene of the feet and hands, police said.

Kumuthini was sentenced on Friday in the County Court of Victoria to a further two years and six months’ imprisonment after she pleaded guilty to the offence on June 13, 2023.

The Judge ordered that the sentence would start 18 months’ before the completion of her current sentence for the slavery offences.

AFP Detective Superintendent Simone Butcher said any attempt to tamper with the integrity of a trial was of serious concern to police.

“No one is above the law, and the public should feel confident that anyone who tries to interfere with the judicial process is risking serious punishments,” Butcher said.

The police charged the couple in June 2016 with slavery offences and in 2020, while awaiting trial, Kumuthini attempted to pervert the course of justice by calling the victim to threaten her and warn her not to give evidence during the court proceedings.

Following this, the AFP Human Trafficking Team charged Kumuthini with attempting to pervert the course of justice, contrary to section 43 of the Crimes Act 1914, and the matter was heard separately to the slavery proceedings.

The court in 2021 had sentenced Kumuthini to eight years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of four years for the slavery offences in 2021.

Kandasamy was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of three years.

This is the first of its kind case on domestic servitude in Australia, where Justice John Champion, during the sentencing in 2021, observed: “No one has expressed any sense of regret or sorrow — it’s a fairly remarkable absence of humanity.”

“Your primary focus seems to have been on yourselves… You both grossly exploited a vulnerable person for which you should be ashamed … I am quite convinced that you both believe you did nothing wrong,” Justice Champion told the couple.

According to a Guardian report, the victim, a mother of four children, came to Australia twice to live with the Kannans in 2002 and 2004 before returning again on a one-month tourist visa in 2007.

Despite requests to be allowed to return to her family, the woman was coerced to work up to 23 hours a day caring for the couple’s children, cooking, cleaning and doing chores.

She had tea and curries thrown at her, was beaten with a frozen chicken. In exchange, she was paid about AUS$3.36 per day.

Kumuthini lied about the victim’s identity to paramedics and hospital staff, so she was admitted under the wrong name, The Guardian reported.



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