A MUM-of-four from Shap who fiddled benefits worth more than £45,000 has been given a suspended jail sentence.

During her hearing at Carlisle Crown Court, Natalie Johnson’s defence lawyer Jeff Smith said she had not used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle when she illegally claimed Housing Benefit, Income Support, and Child Tax Credits.

She committed the offences because she knowingly failed to declare that she was living with her then partner, who was earning a salary.

Kimberley Obrusik, prosecuting, said when she first made her benefits claims she was in fact not living with her then partner John Johnson. But her application was made on the basis that she was a lone parent who had no partner and no additional income.

Prosecutor Miss Obrusik said investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) mounted covert surveillance which showed the 33-year-old defendant was not living alone as she claimed. Her then partner had begun living with her.

He was working for an accountancy firm, earning a salary of £19,000. “But the claim wasn’t fraudulent from the outset,” said the barrister.

Defence lawyer Jeff Smith suggested the defendant’s then partner was not always at home.

Noting that the defendant had a new partner, and employment prospects, and that she was repaying the money she wrongly claimed, the judge suspend for 18 months the six-month jail term he imposed. Johnson must also do 180 hours of unpaid work.