A mother-of-three has avoided an immediate jail term after admitting benefit fraud totalling more than £140,000 carried out over almost 10 years.

Hayley Marie Higginbotham, 36, of Urley Path, Anagh Coar, had denied five counts of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain benefits.

But she pleaded guilty to all five charges on the first day of her trial.

The benefit overpayment totalled £141,461.35 and covered a period of more than nine years between May 2013 and October 2022.

Deemster Graeme Cook sentenced her to 18 months’ custody suspended for two years, with no supervision order.

He told her: ‘This has been I’m sure a hard lesson for you. You have been very fortunate. You had the good sense to plead guilty on the first day of trial.’

The Deemster said if she had not pleaded guilty and her case had gone to trial she may well have ended up going to jail.

Higginbotham’s benefits claims were not fraudulent from the outset, the court heard.

Prosecutor Peter Connick told the Court of General Gaol Delivery that the defendant had initially claimed income support from December 2008 as a lone parent with dependent children.

Social security had received information that she was receiving income from her partner.

Investigators found she was using her partner’s Lloyds Bank account to pay for her expenses. Payments went to Manx Telecom, Sure, IoM Creamery and a Colebourn credit agreement

When she was interviewed she was asked if her partner, with whom she had been in a relationship for 13 years, had helped her out financially. She replied: ‘He’s meant to, he’s my partner.’

She insisted he wasn’t supporting her and she had always paid him back in cash.

Higginbotham had also failed to declare an Isle of Man Bank account although the court heard there was no activity on it.

Deemster Cook said: ‘Even after the department investigated you were still making claims and you failed to notify them that you had a bank account. All of that adds up to fraud of the benefits system.’

He said the offences were at a medium level of culpability. He said the defendant had made a number of false statements but the claims were not fraudulent from the outset.

The court heard that that the defendant had paid back £1,025 and was having £30 a week deducted from her benefits. She had also agreed to set up a standing order for a further payment of £25 a week.

She had no previous convictions, three dependent children and was described in court as ‘certainly hard-working’.

A proceeds of crime hearing will take place in June.