A woman who forced two Thai women into sex slavery sobbed in court as lawyers discussed her “good character” during an appeal to have her conviction overturned on Wednesday.
Rungnapha Kanbut also wept when the court heard a disabled relative had experienced significant hardship without her.
Ms.Kanbut was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2019 after being found guilty of intentionally possessing a slave, exercising powers of ownership over a slave and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
She appeared in NSW Supreme Court from prison via videolink and used a translator to appeal for her conviction to be quashed or, failing that, her sentence to be reduced.
The now roughly 60-year-old was found to have subjected two women to severe mistreatment and prison-like conditions after they moved from Thailand to Australia between 2004 and 2005.
When the women arrived in Sydney, Ms.Kanbut confiscated their passports and told them they would each need to pay off a $45,000 debt, a jury was told during the initial trial.
The women were frequently forced to work up to 12 hours a day at multiple brothels, with almost all of their earnings going towards the “debts”.
Naked photos were also taken of the women and used to exert extra control by threatening to release them on the internet, a court heard during the trial.
Ms.Kanbut’s lawyer, David Barrow, told a panel of judges a relative had been diagnosed with autism shortly before she went to prison and had suffered from bullying and isolation.
He told the court the relative remained “entirely reliant” on her.
“This is a vulnerable individual,” Mr Barrow said.
Mr Barrow also told the court that testimonies as to her character were missing from the trial and if included, may have impacted the jury’s opinion of her.
Submissions by a number of people who knew Ms.Kanbut in the time following her crimes were said by her lawyer to express “shock” at the alleged crimes.
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