Slave owners put 'gun at court's head'

·3-min read

A couple convicted of keeping a woman as a slave for eight years has been accused of putting a gun to Victoria's Supreme Court to get bail.

The husband and wife, who can now be identified as Kandasamy and Kumuthini Kannan, held the Tamil woman in their Mount Waverley home between 2007 and 2015.

They were each convicted by a Supreme Court jury on Friday of two charges of keeping and using the woman as a slave, forcing her to cook, clean and look after their children.

The maximum penalty is 25 years prison.

But they've been released on bail ahead of a pre-sentence hearing after neither they nor their lawyers made arrangements for the care of their three vulnerable children.

Justice John Champion said the Kannans had created an impossible situation that meant he had to release hem on bail for the welfare of the children.

Two of the children have high functioning autism while the third was described as severely psychologically disabled.

Justice Champion said it was reprehensible that they'd no thought of the needs of their children and that there had been a denial of reality that this day might come.

"It does Mr and Mrs Kannan no credit whatsoever that we've reached this point and they have effectively placed a gun at the court's head. They are to be condemned for that."

He added it was incredible neither the couple nor long-time psychologist Jeffrey Cummins had notified authorities about the prospect of the children being left alone.

The Kannans will face a pre-sentence hearing on June 29 in relation to their treatment of the victim, who is now in her 60s.

She came to Melbourne twice to work for the family before returning in 2007 for what was meant to be a one-month trip.

But she was kept by the couple, working up to 23 hours a day for eight years, until she collapsed in July 2015.

She was taken to hospital in a serious condition, weighing 40kg and suffering sepsis.

In recorded evidence she said she had been forced to cook, clean and care for the Kannans' children, and had been subject to abuse by Kumuthini Kannan.

"She will take a chicken, frozen chicken, and hit (it) on my head," she said through a Tamil interpreter.

Prosecutor Richard Maidment QC said the couple paid the woman what amounted to $3.36 per day over the eight years.

"She was known to be a person who worked hard and would tolerate being at their beck and call 24/7 during the period she was with them," he said.

"It doesn't take much to compare that with what one might expect ... to have to pay for a live-in housekeeper and childminder."

The jury heard the woman's son-in-law in Tamil Nadu, in southern India, had written to the Kannans asking for the woman to be sent home.

But in an email chain found on the couple's computer the wife had replied "f*** you".