SINGAPORE: An Indonesian maid who was impregnated by her boyfriend "panicked" after giving birth and abandoned her newborn son in a bin along a road.
The 29-year-old woman, who cannot be named due to gag orders protecting the baby's identity, was given five months' jail on Thursday (Nov 5).
She pleaded guilty via video-link from where she was remanded to one charge of exposure and abandonment of her child.
The court heard that the woman was working as a domestic helper at an unidentified location when she discovered in May 2020 that she was pregnant.
She tried taking pills to abort the baby but was unsuccessful. On the morning of Jul 27 this year, she felt contractions while she was in her employer's home and gave birth to her son in the toilet at about 1pm.
The boy was crying loudly, so she covered his mouth with her hand but did not injure him.
She cut the umbilical cord with scissors, cleaned the boy and wrapped him in a towel before placing him in a paper bag and giving him clean water to drink.
A few hours later, she left the house with the baby as she was afraid that her employer would hear him. She walked for a while before deciding to place her son in a blue bin at Tai Keng Gardens, a location she chose at random, the court heard.
She checked that the bin was empty before placing her son inside and positioning a small stone between the lid and the bin to ensure there was enough air for the boy.
She claimed she had no intention to hurt the boy and hoped a passer-by would find him.
At about 7.45pm, a resident who lived nearby went out to smoke and heard a faint sound. His family members joined him and they found the baby in the bin before calling the police.
The baby was taken to hospital, while his mother was arrested on Jul 29 and remanded a day later. As of Aug 19 this year, the baby was in a stable condition, court documents said.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tin Shu Min asked for six to eight months' jail, acknowledging that the woman took steps to reduce injury to her child.
Referring to a case where a woman threw her newborn baby down a rubbish chute, Ms Tin said a blue bin was not as dangerous in comparison.
READ: Mother jailed for throwing her newborn baby into rubbish chute in Bedok HDB block, intending to kill him
However, she said that while the risk to the baby was lower in this case, there was still risk caused by the possibility of the boy suffocating or having materials thrown on top of him, as well as a risk of not being discovered.
"The gravity of the offence cannot be overlooked," said Ms Tin, adding that the baby was unable to fend for himself.
OVERWHELMED BY THE CIRCUMSTANCES: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Anand Nalachandran asked for not more than 20 weeks' jail, saying that his client has been remanded since Jul 30, and matters had to be expedited such that a psychiatric assessment could not be completed in time.
He said the woman immediately indicated that she wanted to plead guilty and asked the court to consider her circumstances.
"She came to Singapore in 2018. She was working with a family she's happy with and she liked her employers," said the lawyer. "She had a relationship with a Bangladeshi which ended in 2020, but subsequently discovered she was pregnant."
He said she did not know who or where to seek help from and confided only in a fellow domestic helper.
"She was so concerned that by telling her employer, or anyone, she would lose her job - her pass would be revoked, she would be sent back home, and not be able to come back again," he said.
The lawyer added that his client was in a state of panic and confusion and did not receive any medical attention throughout her pregnancy or birth, and intended no harm to the baby.
"She was on her own throughout this ordeal," he said. "It's almost impossible to imagine being in her shoes at that time. She was overwhelmed by the circumstances."
The woman wiped away her tears as she listened to proceedings via a Bahasa Indonesia interpreter.
"Her behaviour, I think looking at the facts, can only be described as atypical and abnormal," said her lawyer, adding that the baby is "well and unharmed".
The prosecutor responded to the defence's arguments by saying that the woman is "not a babe in the woods" but is a 29-year-old mother who had about two months to consider what to do, and expected the delivery of the boy.
The judge ordered the jail term to be backdated to the first date of the woman's remand.
For exposure and abandonment of her child under 12 years, the woman could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined, or both.