A BENEFITS cheat who swindled almost £30,000 claims she needed the money to pay for washing powder and high electricity bills because she is incontinent.

Jayne Cruden's excuse was branded “unacceptable” by a judge at Teesside Crown Court as he jailed the dishonest Middlesbrough 50-year-old for six months.

Judge Peter Fox, QC, told her: “It must be known that people who defraud the community of such large sums repeatedly and for a long time go to prison.”

The court heard how Cruden raked in £27,986 in housing benefit, Council Tax relief, JobSeekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance over four years.

She claimed she was jobless and living alone at her home in Maple Street even though her partner Thomas Ingledew was there and she was working as a cleaner.

When Cruden was arrested last October, she insisted they were not a couple and that she had received no money, but admitted using his surname on a utility bill.

In later interviews, she told Department for Works and Pensions investigators that she needed the money because she did a lot of washing because of her condition.

Andrew Teate, mitigating, said Cruden made a legitimate claim in 2002 after she lost her job, but accepted she lied in later applications for benefit from 2006.

He said she failed to seek prompt help for her incontinence which could have been treated and for which she might – ironically – have received help from the state.

“She has shown a degree of remorse as well as frustration and anger at herself for not getting medical help earlier,” Mr Teate said. “She buried her head in the sand.

“Her benefit has clearly been considerable, but her lifestyle change has not been significant at all. She spent the extra money on products and cleaning costs.

“Her issue seems to be that she doesn't seek help. She has been unable to speak to her partner about this, and he is unaware she is at court. She has again buried her head.”

Cruden looked shocked and sobbed as she realised she was going to prison, and Judge Fox told her: “There is a strong element of greed, it seems to me, in this case.”

He added: “I don't accept that your milking the system to the tune of £140 every week for four years was at all appropriate for washing powder and ancillary needs.”