A woman who tried to kill herself and her eight-year-old son by burning charcoal was spared a jail sentence yesterday when a judge said a prison term would not be a deterrent. Instead, she was ordered to perform 240 hours of community service. Deputy Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng said of the 41-year-old: 'Instead of taking good care of her son and protecting him from all danger, the defendant sought to commit suicide with him.' The woman earlier pleaded guilty in the District Court to ill-treating a child in the suicide attempt on April 25. That day she wrote letters to her family, took painkillers and fed some to her son, closed their flat's windows and lit charcoal, the court heard. During the night, a noise from the charcoal woke the boy, who asked why his mother was burning it. His mother told him to lie down, but later he started vomiting and she started to feel sorry about hurting him and quit the attempt, opening the windows and turning on a fan. Police arrived that afternoon after the woman's sister, who had received a suicide note, made a report. They found the woman and her son watching television. The woman told police she had suspected her boyfriend, with whom she had been living since 1998, was having an affair. She was also afraid he would find out about the HK$1.5 million in debts she had run up while shopping to relieve stress. The woman will in future live with a sister. Her boyfriend, the father of her son, has moved out and is taking care of the boy with a helper.