A SALISBURY woman wrongfully claimed more than £30,000 in benefits, a court heard.

Belinda Stoodley, 56, claimed £23,857 in income support and £7,007 in council tax benefit between 2004 and 2012, despite having £21,000 saved in a bank account.

David Chapman, defending at Salisbury Crown Court, said Stoodley had set the savings aside for the care of her mentally ill brother, who is unable to work or look after himself, in case she is no longer able to care for him.

“These offences weren’t carried out for selfish reasons, but a perceived need to provide for her brother,” he said. “She regarded it as a fund for a distinct purpose.”

Stoodley, of Macklin Road, was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months.

Judge Jane Miller said: “It is always sad to see somebody of your age standing in the dock, particularly when it comes to benefit fraud.”

“By far the most important matter is that the monies are repaid from the finances you have,” she added.

A confiscation hearing has been listed for May 20 at Salisbury Crown Court to recover the overpaid benefit.

Adrian Ayland, investigations manager for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in Wiltshire, said: “This case shows that DWP is always vigilant and will uncover benefit frauds where people have undeclared monies. Benefit fraud is not a victimless crime but is cheating the honest taxpayer.”