A woman who has shown no remorse, regret or sorrow for holding another woman captive as a slave for eight years in Melbourne has been sentenced to a jail term of the same length.
Kumuthini Kannan was found to be more morally culpable than her husband, Kandasamy Kannan, who was described in court as being susceptible to a degree of domination by his wife and having a weak character.
The pair was convicted of enslaving a vulnerable Tamil woman from India in their Mount Waverley home between 2007 and 2015.
Kumuthini Kannan, 53, must serve at least four years of her eight-year maximum sentence while Kandasamy Kannan, 57, must serve at least three years of his six-year term.
“No one has expressed any sense of regret or sorrow – it’s a fairly remarkable absence of humanity,” Justice John Champion told the Victoria supreme court on Wednesday.
The couple persistently failed to come to grips with the reality of their situation including not arranging care for their three special needs children, the court heard.
“Your primary focus seems to have been on yourselves,” the judge said. “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.”
The victim came to Australia twice to live with the Kannans in 2002 and 2004 before returning again on a one-month tourist visa in 2007.
The woman left school before the end of her first year of formal education at age six. She worked in fields from the age of 12, took on menial work on building sites and later moved into cooking.
She married and had four children but was widowed young and left to raise her family alone. Her life in India was dominated by financial struggle and deprived circumstances, the judge said.
Despite desperate pleas to be allowed to return to her family, the woman was forced from 2007 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 and when her son-in-law asked the Kannans to let her return they responded “fuck you”. In exchange she was paid about $3.36 per day.
The woman, now in her 60s, was rushed to hospital by ambulance in July 2015 after collapsing. She was malnourished and suffering untreated medical conditions including sepsis and diabetes.
Kumuthini Kannan lied about the woman’s identity to paramedics and hospital staff, so she was admitted under the wrong name.
Parallel to this, Victoria police had been asked to check on the woman’s welfare on behalf of her worried family in India.
They visited the Kannans who lied and got away with it until September 2015 when the family’s lawyer contacted police saying they wished to apologise. It still took days for authorities to untangle the lies.
The woman was released from hospital in October 2015 into the care of a nursing home, where she remains.
Champion criticised the immigration department for being “missing in action”, and not investigating the expiration of the short-stay visa, noting several longer visas were rejected before the one-month one was approved.