A MOTHER-of-three who dishonestly obtained state benefits of £60,000 has been jailed for 12 months today.
Members of Patricia Highton's close family wept as the 44-year-old was led to the cells at Liverpool Crown Court.
She had denied six fraud offences and was convicted of three of them after a trial and was cleared of the other three.
Jailing Highton, of Stanley Court, Birkenhead, Judge Andrew Hatton said that the jury had acquitted her of those offences because they found that her husband was not living with her at the time.
But they had been satisfied that she had then continued to claim benefits after he had returned to the matrimonial home and he was working.
The court heard that their third child was born in January 2005 so it was clear that the couple had resumed their relationship by May the previous year and from then until October 2011 she had received benefits totalling more than £90,000.
He said that she would have been entitled to notional tax credits of in excess of £30,000 bringing the total overpayment to £60,000 spanning seven years.
Judge Hatton said he accepted she had experienced difficulties in her life but so did other people and they did not resort to taking money to which they were not entitled.
Highton was convicted of three offences of failing to notify a change of circumstances involving income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit.
The judge said that although the offences were not fraudulent from the outset she had then repeatedly signed forms dishonestly claiming she was entitled to the benefits.
Bernice Campbell, defending, said that Highton has no previous convictions and is worried about the health of her son.
She has been the matriarch of the family and had to face various difficulties.