This benefit cheat mum pocketed more than £78,000 she was not entitled to but has walked free from court.
Kathryn Leathard fleeced the taxpayer for five years, claiming handouts under the false pretence she was a single parent.
A court heard the 29-year-old claimed tax credits, income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit on the basis she was living alone.
The fraud came to light after Leathard’s partner was proved to be living with her through evidence which included a takeaway account.
Now the mum-of-three, of Parkwood Avenue, Prudhoe, Northumberland, has been spared an immediate spell behind bars after a judge said he didn’t want to take her away from her children.
Judge Stephen Earl, at Newcastle Crown Court, told her: “Let’s be clear – this is public money you defrauded the government and the public out of.
“People who pay into it are entitled to that money.
“It may be you would have been entitled to some of it but but the effect is, when people commit fraud, you never know the full truth.
“I accept you didn’t get into this seeing how much you could defraud but you have defrauded and it’s a large some of money.
“You are a 29-year-old woman with three children, one has respiratory problems and it can’t be easy.
“You found yourself claiming benefits and I suspect you found it easy to continue claiming benefits and didn’t change the position you were in.”
The court heard the offences happened between 2011 and 2016 and the total overpayment was £78,990.
Prosecutor Barry Robson said: “The income support claim began in November 2011 until May 2016.
“Throughout that period she said she was a lone parent with dependent children when in fact that was not the position.
“There were reminders throughout the period, she received a changes booklet on four occasions showing what she needed to declare.”
When interviewed about the benefit fraud, Leathard made no comment to investigators.
Mr Robson said: “Material was put to her that her partner had been living there because of various accounts, including a Just Eat account and he was a tenant of one of the garages where they lived.
“She says he was not there all the time at the beginning but the relationship hardened over the years.
“She has no previous convictions and there is no evidence of a profitable lifestyle.”
Leathard pleaded guilty to three benefit fraud charges and was given 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with supervision and she must do 140 hours of unpaid work.
Jamie Adams, defending, handed in four references from people who had known her for years, which showed a better side to her character.
Judge Earl said: “I’m not going to take her away from her children.”