A NEWPORT woman was given a suspended prison sentence yesterday after fraudulently claiming more than £40,000 in benefits over a 12-year period.

Newport magistrates’ court heard Donna Young dishonestly obtained council tax and housing benefits between June 1997 and July 2009, by claiming she was the only adult living at her Aberthaw Road home when her boyfriend, Brian Ley, was also living there.

Simon Cadenhead, prosecuting, told the court Young, 41, wrote on numerous benefits forms over the 12-year period that there were no other adults living in the house – just her daughter, now 15.

He said Newport council officers began investigating Young in August 2008, after receiving an allegation she and a man were "living together as husband and wife".

The court heard Mr Ley had claimed to live in Howe Circle, Newport, with her father, but investigators found he had never lived there and his car and work records were registered to Young’s Aberthaw Road address.

In June last year, surveillance was carried out for three days outside Young’s home and Mr Ley was seen leaving and entering the house on several occasions.

Young was interviewed and admitted dishonestly producing false information to Newport council in order to obtain benefits for herself at a court hearing earlier this year.

Over 12 years, Young claimed £36,163 in housing benefits and £4,673 in council tax benefits – totalling £40,836, which will have to be paid back to Newport council.

Mr Cadenhead said it was possible Young’s benefits claims dated back further than June 1997, but records of housing and council tax benefits only go back to that year.

Magistrates sentenced her to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

Chair of the bench Brian White said: "This was a serious offence carried out over a significant period of time and you had ample opportunity to put matters right."

After the case, a Newport council spokeswoman said Young will be offered the opportunity to form an agreement with the authority to pay the money back on a weekly or monthly basis.

She said if Young fails to make or keep to the agreement, the council will seek civil proceedings.