A BENEFIT cheat mum is behind bars for Christmas over a £76,000 claim scam.
Catherine Proctor was paid income support, housing benefit and given council tax relief for almost a decade on the basis she was a single mum.
But between September 2002 and May 2011, the 49-year-old was living as “husband and wife” with her long-term partner, Newcastle Crown Court was told.
Proctor, of Ocean View, Ryhope, Sunderland, admitted four charges of benefit fraud.
Judge Penny Moreland jailed the mother-of-three for nine months.
The judge told her: “Over more than nine years you have had more than £75,000 worth of public money to which you were not entitled. It has carried on over a significant period of time.”
Proctor sobbed and asked to see her children before she was led away to start the jail term, but her request was refused.
Her supporters wept in the public gallery.
Prosecutor Michael Graham told the court Proctor was collared after a tip-off to the authorities.
Mr Graham said: “The DWP (department for Work and Pensions) and the council commenced upon an investigation after information was received that the defendant was living with her partner, but was claiming as a single parent.”
The court heard that banking, loan and insurance documents showed Proctor’s partner had been living at the address and they had had joint accounts from as early as 2002.
Lee Fish, defending, said Proctor had found full-time factory work to start paying back what is owed.
He added: “This couple were not living a lavish lifestyle.
“That is supported by the rather dire financial position they currently find themselves in.
“There are significant debts.
“They were not living the high life – anything but.”