A baby played in the dock yesterday while a judge decided whether to separate her from her mother. Hawker Ng Yau-lee, 35, begged the High Court not to jail her so she could take care of the girl, who spent the hearing sitting quietly on her mother's lap and playing with the bars enclosing the dock. Ng had been sentenced to three months in prison for offering a bribe of $2,000 to a police officer who caught her selling 580 packets of cigarettes on which no excise duty had been paid and which bore no health warning. But she was freed on bail pending yesterday's appeal against the sentence. The High Court heard she had passed the date when she was due to give birth and was 10 months' pregnant when arrested last November. Defence barrister Robert Forrest said Ng, who had earlier been fined over the illegal cigarettes, panicked when the officer caught her selling them in Lei Muk Shue, Kwai Chung, and did not fully understand the consequences of what she was doing when trying to bribe him. 'She did not want to be jailed because she feared, not for herself, but for her unborn child.' Ng had refused to have the child in jail with her. 'She was afraid of having her child born in prison, or of going to prison and having no one to look after it,' he said. Mr Forrest said Ng's 16-year-old son was too young to look after the infant, and their father, a longtime sufferer of schizophrenia, was now in an institution. He pleaded with the judge to free the mother 'as an act of mercy and compassion'. Mr Justice Arthur Leong Shiu-chung took pity and suspended Ng's jail term for 18 months.