An unemployed man who slapped and repeatedly punched a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) manager was jailed for 24 weeks yesterday.
Tan Seng Choon, 56, admitted to attacking Ms Lim Sock Ling at the MSF Social Service Office in Lorong 6 Toa Payoh on Nov 6 last year.
He had gone to the office to apply for financial aid.
The court heard that Ms Lim, 34, was looking at his bank books when she noticed that large withdrawals had been made, and asked him where the money went.
Tan became agitated, started gesticulating forcefully, and told her that he lent the money to his friends. However, he could not produce any supporting documents.
Ms Lim remained calm and did not do anything to provoke him.
Suddenly, Tan reached across the table and slapped Ms Lim's left cheek, dislodging her spectacles from her face. He then walked over to her side of the table, and punched her on the face.
As she screamed in pain and backed into the corner, Tan repeatedly threw punches at her face and around her neck.
In all, he rained 11 punches on her before a witness rushed in to intervene. Ms Lim, who was found to have sustained contusions on her upper and lower lips, was given four days of medical leave.
While Tan has a history of "schizoaffective disorder", the Institute of Mental Health said in a report that he "was not in relapse at or around the time of the alleged offence".
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ruth Teng, seeking a jail sentence of between eight and 10 months, said this was a brutal and senseless attack on a public servant performing her duties.
She added that a clear signal needs to be sent - that such a wanton attack on front-line staff cannot be condoned. The attack was vicious, she said, and it was fortuitous that a witness was present to intervene and stop Tan from causing further hurt to Ms Lim.
While Tan's attack was not premeditated, District Judge John Ng said, it was disproportionate and terrifying to the victim. And it was different from the assaults on law-enforcement officers, who expect to deal with difficult individuals in the course of their duty.
The judge said this was an unprovoked attack against a front-line MSF officer who was not adept at dealing with such assaults.
Tan could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined for the offence.