Baby phone blackmailer appeals sentence

·2-min read

A mother of two who blackmailed the parents of a dying baby wants her jail sentence reduced on appeal, arguing the punishment is too harsh.

Siti Kamal exploited Melbourne father Jay Windross' social media plea for the return of his wife Dee's stolen phone, filled with pictures of their terminally ill 11-month-old Amiyah.

Kamal pretended she had the phone, taken from a Chadstone Shopping Centre bathroom days before the baby died in April 2019, and demanded $1000 for its return.

She now wants her maximum three-year jail sentence, for blackmail labelled "so reprehensible as to be amoral", to be reduced on the grounds it's disproportionately harsh.

Barrister Tim Marsh told Victoria's Court of Appeal on Tuesday the original judge had been overly pre-occupied with the morally charged nature of the crime to the detriment of other relevant factors.

Mr Marsh accepted the Windrosses were exquisitely vulnerable to exploitation on the precipice of losing their child.

"The is grossly opportunistic offending," he said.

"Parents in this situation deserve pity and kindness from strangers, not to have their very vulnerability exploited for potential criminal gain.

"But it is one of many features of the offending, not the sole feature."

Kamal pleaded guilty and was ordered in March 2020 to serve two years before becoming eligible for release on parole.

Now 26, her visa has been cancelled and she is likely to be deported to Malaysia afterwards.

Sentencing Judge Liz Gaynor found there was little evidence to back up the blackmailer's claim of being driven by financial distress.

"That you should be inspired in the first place by such suffering to offend in this way, much less continue it as intensely as you did even after being told Amiyah was dying and then of her death, I find to be so reprehensible as to be amoral," the judge said.

"That you also falsely represented that you had the phone, which had the effect of adding to the Windross' devastation in the immediate aftermath of their daughter's death in my view only compounds the repellent nature of this offending."

Mr Marsh said the blackmail was very unsophisticated and wasn't pre-planned.

He argued the judge was overly dismissive of Kamal's rehabilitative prospects and the extra-curial punishment wrought by intense media coverage, and should have taken into account her likely deportation.

Kamal exchanged nearly 160 messages with Mr Windross in the 24 hours before Amiyah's death.

Amiyah was born with an undiagnosed neurological condition. She spent 200 of her 338 days alive in hospital.

Her parents documented their daughter's short life on the Samsung S8, which wasn't backed up.

"You may help me today, god may help you," Kamal wrote, despite never having the phone. It was still missing at the time of her sentence.

Prosecutors oppose the appeal, which was made out of time because of COVID-19 delays.