A GRAN will be behind bars this Christmas after claiming £75,000 in a benefits scam.
Jean Colledge was paid incapacity benefit and given housing and council tax relief on the basis she was too ill to work as a result of depression.
But for 12 years, the 64-year-old was employed as a cleaner at a pub and then at a care home, while hoarding thousands in bank accounts from savings, inheritance and an injury claim pay-out.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, Judge Penny Moreland jailed Colledge, whose supporters wept in the public gallery as she was led away, for nine months.
The judge told the divorcee, who has never been in trouble before: “The upshot is you have had nearly £75,000 of public money you should not have had.
“That is a very large sum of money and you went on claiming fraudulently even when you had money to spare from inheritances and personal injury claims.
“At times, you had savings of thousands of pounds.
“I’m afraid it’s just not possible to overlook a sum of money such as this.”
Colledge, of Allendale Street, Hetton, had admitted two charges of benefit fraud totalling £74,825.
James Kemp, prosecuting, told the court Colledge had originally made the claim for benefits legitimately on the grounds of her mental state.
But he added: “The Crown says within less than six months, she started working as a cleaner in a local pub and that continued in various forms, she worked as a cleaner in care homes.
“From May 2000 and March 2012, the defendant made no less than eight completed forms on various dates.
“Throughout that time period, she failed to disclose both that she was working as a cleaner and also that she held two bank accounts, with Barclays and Lloyds.
“At times, one at least reached in excess of £6,000 and she had income from inheritance and as a result of personal injury claim.
“Had she declared both issues those benefits would not have paid during that period.”
Jamie Adams, defending, said Colledge has had a fragile mental state for many years and would suffer more than most in jail.
Mr Adams said: “Ironically, working was one of the best therapies she had ever had but it is that, of course, she should have been declaring.
“It had gone on for so long she became just too fearful to do anything about it.
“She is clearly very remorseful about all of this.
“Prison would serve very little purpose except, perhaps, to state this kind of thing should not happen.”