A BENEFITS cheat who claimed more than £30,000 by pretending his partner wasn’t living with him has escaped a jail term.

Stephen Chalk lied about the woman moving in six years ago so he wouldn’t lose his income support.

Southampton Crown Court sitting in Winchester was told how Chalk had rung the Department for Work and Pensions in February 2005 to inform them that his partner was moving into his home in The Drive, Totton.

But after being told his income support would be stopped, the following month he called them back, told them she hadn’t moved in and had left him, and his money was reinstated.

The court heard that until he was found out, Chalk received an overpayment of £32,436.26 which included housing and council tax benefit.

The court was told Chalk pleaded guilty to benefit fraud.

In his defence the court was told 63-year-old Chalk, was suffering poor health and suicidal thoughts.

The court also heard the woman “was not and had never been a lover, but a companion, carer and friend” who was not living with him fulltime.

Handing him a 12-month prison term suspended for 18 months, Judge Guy Boney told Chalk he deserved to go to prison immediately but it was being suspended because he was now paying the money back, albeit over a long period of time.