Jacqueline Kemp was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court
by Julia Roberts
A mum-of-three who falsely claimed almost £40,000 in housing benefit has narrowly avoided being sent to prison.
A judge at Maidstone Crown Court told 35-year-old Jacqueline Kemp she had been "utterly dishonest" and risked her role as a mother by committing the fraud.
Imposing a jail term of nine months - suspended for a year - Judge Martin Joy said although a custodial sentence was appropriate, he had to take into account the impact of such an outcome on her family, including her disabled husband.
"It's important that benefit fraudsters cannot hide behind the fact they have families who are young or disabled," he explained.
"But I have to have regard to the realities here that your husband is very disabled and you are his carer, and you have three children aged 12, 10 and under two who need you.
"You are their mother and that is perhaps the most important job in the world and you have put that in jeopardy by your fraud."
"you are their mother and that is perhaps the most important job in the world and you have put that in jeopardy by your fraud..." – judge martin joy
Kemp, of Plains Avenue, Maidstone, admitted three offences of failing to declare a change in circumstances and two of fraud by false representation between February 2004 and June last year.
As part of her sentence, she must carry out 200 hours' unpaid work.
The court heard that despite owning her own home, Kemp had claimed she was living in rented accommodation and received overpayment of £39,243.
Judge Joy added that while she had not acted fraudulently from the outset, he did not accept her account that she had been "fighting to keep a roof over her family's head".
He added that such benefit frauds had a "huge impact" on society.
"It is extremely depressing for those honest people who have to live on benefits to find that their benefits and their claims are regarded with such scrutiny because people like you, out of greed, commit benefit offences.
"Society expects, and rightly so, that people will be severely punished."
The court heard Kemp, who legitimately continues to receive £1,900 in benefits each month, has "substantial equity" in her current home.
Confiscation proceedings are to be held later.