SINGAPORE: A 45-year-old woman was sentenced to six months’ jail on Tuesday (May 30) for holding a chopper to a social worker’s neck, after she cancelled a planned visit with the woman's newborn son who was in foster care.
Neo Mui Liang gave birth to the boy in October last year. However, when he was a month old, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) placed him into foster care after Neo, who has “a long history of psychiatric disorders”, was assessed to be incapable of caring for her son.
Instead, she was granted supervised access to the baby for an hour a week.
On Feb 24, 2017, an MSF social worker called off the weekly visit citing concerns for the boy’s safety, after “receiving information” that Neo was “unstable” after a fight with her boyfriend, Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Rene Jeyaraj said.
Upset, Neo decided to confront the social worker. Armed with a kitchen knife and a chopper, she made her way to the Social Service Office (SSO) in Taman Jurong, where she held the knife to her own neck and demanded to see the social worker.
An alarm was triggered by SSO staff, and the social worker called the police before approaching Neo to calm her down. Neo pressed the chopper to the woman’s neck, but she escaped and managed to restrain Neo with the help of colleagues.
Neo pleaded guilty to two charges on Tuesday for criminal intimidation and for the possession of offensive weapons – the knife and chopper – without a lawful purpose. A third charge for threating the social worker – uttering “you all think my knife not sharp” before slitting her own wrist – was taken into consideration.
Defence lawyer Genesis Shen said the “physical and emotional separation” from her son had put Neo in a bad state. And when MSF cancelled the scheduled visit, they took away “her one source of joy and emotional stability in the world”, Mr Shen said.
He added that Neo has had “a long history of psychiatric disorders”, and has been treated by the Institute of Mental Health since 1988 for antisocial personality disorder, personality disorder and depression.
Neo has a 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, who lives at the Singapore Girls' Home.
In sentencing, District Judge May Mesenas urged Neo to receive treatment and attend counselling. “You want to see your child … (that should be) motivation for you to do better”, the judge said, urging Neo to “understand why the (social worker) did not allow you (to see your son). You were not in the (right) state of mind”, Judge Mesenas told her. “Sort yourself out.”
For criminal intimidation, Neo could have been jailed up to seven years, fined or both. For the unlawful possession of offensive weapons, she could have faced up to three years’ jail.