Australia: Couple taken to court for allegedly keeping woman as a slave

Slavery is something that’s considered a thing of the past. But in Australia, a couple has been accused of keeping a woman as slave. Chee Kit Chong, 44, and wife Angie Yeh Ling Liaw, 29 were presented in court in Melbourne. The couple has been charged with possessing a slave as well as using coercion and threats in order to force another person in servitude, according to several media reports.

Australian Federal Police raided the couple’s home in October last year. They received a tip-off from a healthcare worker who reportedly noticed signs of human trafficking in the woman. It has been reported that the woman was kept as a slave in the couple’s house in Point Cook for 10 months between January and October 2022.

The couple is currently on bail. On Thursday, they appeared in Magistrate’s court in Melbourne via video conferencing.

Ms Liaw was represented by Payne Wu from Hiways Lawyers. Wu told the court that the firm was likely to provide representation for Mr Chong. However, he said that it needed more time to determine whether there was a conflict of interest.

The case was adjourned for further hearing. 

Burden of evidence not on the woman

Commonwealth prosecutor Zoe Hough reportedly said that the victim was a vulnerable adult and that she would not be required to give evidence at a committal hearing.

The magistrate said that several witnesses, including hospital and medical staff, can be called in the upcoming committal hearing. This will likely be heard in September or October this year.

AFP reported that there has been an increase in reports of human trafficking and modern slavery. There were 294 reports recorded in the financial year 2021-22. In the previous year, 224 such cases were recorded.

“Everyone can play a role in stopping human trafficking. We encourage anyone who suspects human trafficking or sees something suspicious to report it,” said Detective Superintendent Simone Butcher. She was quoted by AFP.

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