A WOMAN who fraudulently claimed more than £46,000 in benefits after failing to declare an inheritance she had received has been given a six month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

Pauline Morgan, 54, of Ashbrooke Way, Middlesbrough, admitted eight offences of making a false statement over a six year period from 2001 to 2007 relating to housing benefit and council tax benefit she was being paid by Middlesbrough Borough Council.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Morgan had received £3,000 from her late father's estate as well as a further £10,000 as a result of an accident her father suffered before his death. She also received £3,000 as a result of being unfairly dismissed from a former employer.

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But despite coming into money she failed to declare it as savings to the authorities and continued to claim benefits she was not wholly entitled to.

The defendant said she realised she should have declared the cash, but failed to do so and her concealment of the matter "snowballed" from there.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton heard how Morgan was in ill health and said that and her age had saved her from an immediate prison sentence.

Speaking after the case, Paul Slocombe, Middlesbrough Council's executive director for strategic resources, said: "We are always happy to speak to anyone who is not clear on what benefits they are entitled to claim.

"However those who attempt to cheat the benefits system are committing a crime and every penny they claim fraudulently is deprived from those in genuine need.

"Cases like this send out a clear message - if you try and cheat the system you will be caught, you will end up with a criminal record and we will take all actions within the law to recover what we owe."