A 47-YEAR-old woman with multiple sclerosis has been spared jail after falsely claiming £24,000 in disability benefits.

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Tracy Maddison, of Orford Road, Bromeswell, near Woodbridge, failed to tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) she had been working at a pub for nearly five years despite receiving benefit.

Maddison pleaded guilty at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court to dishonestly failing to notify a changed in her circumstances affecting entitlement to her disability living allowance. The money she incorrectly claimed between January 2007 and December 2011 came to £24,169.

Prosecutor Lesla Small told the court Maddison was in receipt of the allowance from September 2001 to November 2011 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in February 2000.

As time went on there was an improvement in her condition, but Maddison failed to notify the DWP.

The court heard Maddison said she had difficulty in walking and suffered from severe headaches, along with pain in her legs, and needed help.

However, in 2007 the mother-of-four obtained employment at the Oyster Inn in Butley, near Woodbridge. Maddison told her employer about some aspects about her condition, and allowances were made so she could work.

Ms Small said Maddison’s employer was unaware of her disability payments.

The court was told investigators from the DWP photographed and videoed Maddison while she was working.

During an interview on December 20, 2011, she acknowledged she knew it was dishonest to make false claims for benefit. Maddison also told officials she had become more mobile due to the medication she was taking.

Michael Stephenson, representing Maddison, said: “She is a lady who seems determined not to give in to her illness and keep fighting it.

“Because of medications there has been some improvement. The nature of these things is not black and white.”

District Judge Celia Dawson told Maddison she had falsely claimed a huge amount of money over nearly five years.

Maddison was given six months imprisonment suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to pay £100 costs.

The money she falsely claimed will now be recovered through her benefits.

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