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A BENEFITS cheat, who received more than £42,000 to which he was not entitled in handouts, was spared an immediate prison sentence.

Colin Barlow, 63, failed to disclose he had a similar sum in his bank account when he filled out application forms for housing and council tax benefit, income support and payment of minimum income guarantee.

Southampton Crown Court heard how Barlow had claimed he and his wife only had £700 each in bank accounts.

However, some 15 months before, he had paid in £40,000, though it had reduced to about £29,000 by the time the offences began.

When questioned, Barlow admitted his mother had left him the cash which was to be equally divided between himself, his wife and daughter, and his brother.

“He said he had not told anyone because he hadn’t given it much thought but they would get their share.”

Barlow, of Easton Way, Milford-on-Sea, admitted five counts of fraud, which Mr Asteris submitted were “fraudulent from the outset, carried out over a considerable period of time and were multiple.”

Steve Tricker, defending, confirmed the money had been distributed.

“He tells me he sees his brother very infrequently and had thought long and hard about giving over the money but it was his mother’s wish and it has happened.”

There was nothing to suggest it was planned or organised and he represented a low risk of reoffending, the solicitor added.

Barlow, who was of previous good character, was given a six-month suspended sentence with 12 months’ supervision.

Barlow will return to the court in October to attend a confiscation hearing.