A LYING mother who pocketed benefits by pretending her children lived with her and she was a single parent has walked free after a court heard she had memory problems.

Amanda Nicholson, from Darlington, raked in almost £10,000 after misleading council officials and the Department for Work and Pensions about her true status.

Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday how Nicholson, 25, lived with husband Colin, a tyre-fitter, but claimed she was struggling alone with her daughters.

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The children did not live with them and she was not entitled to the housing benefit, Council Tax relief, Income Support and JobSeekers Allowance she received.

Defence barrister, Kieran Rainey, told the court Nicholson had memory problems and was unsure if the “on-off” relationship with her husband would last.

“It was a difficult relationship with substance misuse involved, and she was on medication, anti-depressants, and her memory was affected,” said Mr Rainey.

“There were times when he was living at home and times when he moved to his mother's. She is remorseful for this, but it was a difficult time in her life.

“She didn't notify the benefits authorities because she was not sure if it was going to last. She regrets she didn't take the steps of informing each time he moved back.

“She was not living the high-life, far from it . . . it is not a case of someone setting out to make themselves rich and buy plasma TVs on the back of benefits.”

Nicholson was living at Brinkburn Road, Stockton, when she made the false claims, and has had other addresses in North Tyneside and in High Clarence, Teesside.

Mr Rainey told Judge Peter Armstrong that she had “a very unstable lifestyle” after being evicted from a number of homes and having an “enormous amounts of debt”.

Nicholson, now of Charles Street, Darlington, admitted two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances and eight of making false statements.

She was given a 12-month community order with supervision after after the judge heard she is now settled with her husband and acts as his full-time carer.

“This is the first time you have been involved in this sort of offending, it had better be the last,” the judge told her. “It is serious enough to have sent you away.

“You have got to get your life in order so you aren't tempted to cheat the public . . . you cannot do unpaid work for the community because of your role as carer.

“That is obviously an important matter as you are providing a service which would otherwise have to be paid for by the public.”