A benefit cheat mother-of-three has been jailed after fiddling more than £21,000 she was not entitled to receive – by keeping quiet that her soldier boyfriend lived with her.
People who "play by the rules and pay their taxes" during times of squeezed public finances had a right to expect fraudsters to be jailed, a court heard.
Siobhan Milligan, 25, of Habrough, admitted two offences of failing to notify a change in her circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefit.
Richard Sheldon, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that the offences happened over a period of about two-and-a-half years between September 2011 and February last year. She wrongly claimed a total of £8,684 in Income Support and £12,500 in housing benefit and council tax benefit. She did not declare that Simon Thomas, a soldier, had been living with her.
Ian Durant, mitigating, said that Milligan was "foolish" and "did not quite get to grips with the benefits system". She wrongly thought that, because Mr Thomas spent a lot of time at his barracks in North Yorkshire and on manoeuvres in Cyprus, she did not need to declare that they were a couple.
"She did not by any means enjoy a lavish lifestyle," said Mr Durant. "She deeply regrets her involvement in this dishonesty. She understands the severity of what she has done. She is ashamed of herself and remorseful."
Judge David Tremberg told Milligan: "The public purse is, and has been, strained severely for some years. It's essential that optimum use is made of such scarce public funds as do exist and they are they are not siphoned off into the pockets of dishonest people who are not entitled to them. This offence is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate for it. The public are entitled to expect that you are punished for what you have done and a sentence is imposed which should deter others."
It was important that members of the public who "play by the rules and pay their taxes" should see benefit cheats going to prison, said Judge Tremberg.
Milligan, who had no previous convictions, was jailed for 12 weeks.