A BENEFIT cheat who swindled £17,723 has escaped jail and ordered instead to complete 300 hours of unpaid work in the community.

Kate Ogburn, aged 31, of Lingwell Park, Widnes, admitted failing to declare that her partner was living with her when she completed her benefit application forms.

She pleaded guilty to three benefit fraud offences at Warrington Magistrates Court on March 27.

Magistrates said they felt the threshold for custody had been met but because it was her first offence, and she pleaded guilty early, they sentenced her to a 24-month community order.

They had listened to representations from her solicitor and read a pre-sentence report.

Ogburn must also pay £60 victim surcharge and £150 costs.

Magistrates stressed the seriousness of her offence and the high level sentence she had received.

Her overpaid benefits included £7,950.25 income support, £7,885.23 housing benefit and £1,888.39 council tax benefit from February, 2011 to May, 2013.