But Valerie Forlow, 71, who hobbled into the dock at Dumfries Sheriff Court on crutches, was ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work – after her solicitor suggested she could produce knitted items for charity.
On Tuesday, Forlow, of Mossgeil Avenue, Dumfries, admitted making false statements to the Department for Work and Pensions that she was in receipt of a pension and no other income when in fact she was obtaining a dependent’s allowance from ICI Services over a period of 11 years.
The solicitor said the fraud had resulted from a mistake in the early years and had gone on undetected.
He pointed out that Forlow had no income other than her pension and state benefit but had started to repay the sum as soon as it became obvious.
Sheriff George Jamieson pointed out that the guidelines issued by the High Court suggested that that benefit frauds over £20,000 should be dealt with by prison sentences, but because of the exceptional circumstances of this case he imposed a community payback order for 150 hours unpaid work.