A MUM conned more than £40,000 from the taxpayer because she did not want to live in a council house, a court heard.

Elizabeth Dempsey kept quiet about her £90,000 nest egg when signing forms for income support, council tax and housing benefit.

Southampton Crown Court heard how the single mum from Romsey rented a property at £1,000 a month. Ximena Jones, defending, said Dempsey wanted the best for her son.

She said: “She wanted to live in a nice house in a nice area. She thought if she told the truth she knew it would mean a change in her lifestyle."

The court heard how Dempsey, 41, of Horsecroft Road, has paid back £3,000 and was now paying the rest out of her income support benefits – because she had spent all her savings on her lifestyle.

Miss Jones said her client knew she faced jail but was petrified about the impact of this on her son. Dempsey had admitted three charges of benefits fraud.

Sentencing, Judge Patrick Hooton told Dempsey: “You should have thought of him when you started this fraud. "

You must have realised at some stage while you stole all that money from the taxpayer that your child, who does not necessarily have all the advantages, was at risk of being left without a mother.

“Because people who are caught with this sort of money, stealing it like you did, go to prison – do you understand?” But Judge Hooton stepped back from jailing her on the spot, instead suspending a 12 month sentence for two years, imposing a supervision order plus 100 hours’ unpaid work.

A confiscation hearing was also arranged to help recoup the costs of her fraud. Judge Hooton said: “It seems to me it is at least likely you will be able to pay most of it back. You will have to cut your cloth to fit your lifestyle. If you have to live in a council house you have to live in a council house.”