A WOMAN who falsely claimed more than £23,000 in benefits has been given a suspended sentence.

Susan Humphreys, 42, of Broadview, Grays, appeared at Grays Magistrates Court today to be sentenced after pleading guilty to two counts of benefit fraud.

The court heard that, when her husband returned to work in July 2007, he trusted her to post a letter to the council and the Department of Work and Pensions telling them of the change in their circumstances.

She did not post the letter and continued to receive benefits, deceiving her husband into believing he was paying the rent and council tax on their property.

In November 2007, Humphreys had to renew her claim for Housing and Council Tax Benefit.

She completed the form saying that neither she nor her husband were working and had forged his signature.

Passing sentence, magistrates said her case was so serious that only a custodial sentence was appropriate.

She was given credit for her early guilty plea and the fact that her claim had originally been legitimate and that she had no previous convictions.

After hearing in mitigation that Humphreys was suffering from a form of bone cancer and had a young daughter for whom she had sole care, the Magistrates suspended her two six-month jail sentences for a year and imposed a 12 month probation supervision order, during which time she has to undertake a basic skills assessment.

She was also ordered to pay £500 towards the cost of the investigation and prosecution.

Humphreys was warned that, if she failed to comply with the probation order, the custodial sentence was likely to take effect.

The overpaid benefit will also have to be repaid.