A Wallasey woman who cheated the state out of almost £60,000 worth of benefits over six years walked free from court today.

A judge told Sharon Todd, who had pretended she was a single mum, that it was a serious matter but he accepted she had not spent it on a lavish lifestyle and is in poor health.

She was also genuinely remorseful and has no previous convictions, said Recorder Barrie Searle.

Recorder Searle said: "There are many people in this country who have considerable debt but they don't resort to this level of dishonesty. By making such dishonest claims you have cheated other honest taxpayers and you have done that in the sum of nearly £60,000."

He said that as well as imposing a six-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months he was punishing her by imposing an electronically monitored curfew for four months between 7pm to 8am.

He also placed her under supervision for 12 months with attendance on a Wirral women's activity programme.

Todd, 45, of Springfield Place, had pleaded guilty to three offences of failing to notify a change of circumstances and one of false representation.

Joanne Maxwell, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court Todd had dishonestly claimed £59,978 in income support, job seekers allowance, employment support allowance, housing benefit and council tax ending in December 2012.

Some of the benefit claims were legitimate initially but became dishonest when she did not reveal that following a six month separation her husband, Colin Todd, had moved back into the matrimonial home and he was in employment.

Department of Works and Pensions investigators began to keep their home under surveillance between October and December 2012 and it was clear that he was living there.

She had been claiming benefits on the basis she was a single parent and unemployed, said Miss Maxwell.

When interviewed she initially denied wrongdoing but then quickly confessed. She explained she had made the claims because of substantial debt and their home had been re-possessed.

Paul Becker, defending, said that Todd has no previous convictions and has physical and mental health problems.

The couple are now tenants of the house on which there is still a £11,000 debt and she has been repaying the DWP at £40 a week.

He said that Todd, who came into court using two crutches, is in employment but has been off sick for some weeks.

He urged the judge to take an exceptional course and pointed out that the money had not gone on a lavish lifestyle.