A couple pocketed almost £35,000 in a benefit fraud scam.
During a five-year period Neil and Lillian Wells, 55, claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax relief they were not entitled to.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the pair had failed to reveal Mr Wells, 47, was holding down a series of jobs while they claimed neither of them were working.
Mr Recorder Jeremy Barnett, suspended prison sentences in both their cases because of the length of time it has taken to get them to court.
The judge admitted his decision may be viewed as lenient by some.
He said: “I have given you an exceptional opportunity here. Some courts take the view the amount involved in this case requires custody.
“I happen to feel the amount of time these cases take to bring to court is a substantial deterrence and that this is a proper sentence to impose.
“Some people may think you have been rather fortunate.”
The pair, of Dunelm Drive, West Boldon, both admitted benefit fraud charges amounting to £34,849. They are paying back a combined total of £16.25 per week.
They were both sentenced to 12-months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Mr Wells was ordered to carry out 50 hours unpaid work.