A BENEFIT cheat who stole more than £10,000 from the public purse has received a suspended prison sentence.

Julie Fox of Carnforth Drive, Warndon, Worcester, had falsely been claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit over a six year period.

The 46-year-old had failed to declare that she had savings in excess of the permitted amount of £16,000 that would allow her to claim benefits.

Fox falsely filled in application forms and claimed to have just one bank account.

But a routine data match revealed she had seven accounts and over £16,000 in savings.

She would not have received the benefits had these details been declared on the forms.

Between 2006 and 2012, Fox wrongly received income support of £9,317.40, housing benefit of £583.10 and council tax benefit of £109.

Last Thursday, she pleaded guilty to two charges of benefit fraud for failing to report a change in her circumstances and making a false statement on a Department for Work and Pensions application form.

In mitigation, Fox’s solicitors stated that she suffered with cerebral palsy and had developed epilepsy following a fall at the age of eight.

They added their client had a fear of not being able to look after herself in the future and that she had “squirrelled away” the money from her benefits.

But District Judge Nigel Cadbury said Fox had been thoroughly dishonest from the outset and that it was a serious matter.

He gave her a two month custodial sentence for each charge to run concurrently, suspended for 18 months.

In addition, Fox must obey an eight-week curfew between the hours of 3pm to 3am, pay costs of £100 and repay all of the money she stole.

Nick Jefferies, head of shared services at Wychavon District Council - the host authority for benefit payments in south Worcestershire - said: “We consider benefit fraud to be a serious matter and this case sends a clear message that if you try to cheat on benefits you will get caught.

“We work with other agencies, including the Department for Work and Pensions, to make sure that no one is claiming more than they are entitled to.”

Anyone claiming housing or council tax benefits who is unsure as to whether or not they are still entitled to receive them should call Wychavon on 01905 822744 or visit wychavon.gov.uk/benefits.