A woman who admitted illegally claiming more than £55,000 in benefits escaped an immediate jail sentence today.

Melanie Horwood, 55, of Bampton Close, Littlemore, Oxford, admitted at Oxford Crown Court eight counts of falsely claiming Jobseekers' Allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit while she had £25,000-worth of savings from a divorce settlement.

Claire Harden, prosecuting, said Horwood claimed only to have £3,000 savings before a bank account containing the £25,000 was unearthed.

Horwood initially said she was investing the money for her sister, before eventually admitting the money was hers.

David Bright, defending, admitted it was worth a jail sentence but appealed for a suspended sentence.

Judge Tom Corrie said while the offence was serious enough for a lengthy jail sentence, mitigating factors included the fact she had already paid more than £14,000 of the money back, that her previous character was exemplary and she had shown genuine remorse.

She was given a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years and a supervision order, and Judge Corrie reminded Horwood she would spend the next 11 years paying back the debt.