A disabled man who received thousands of pounds in benefits that he was not entitled to avoided jail because his solicitor had arranged for him to pay the money back.

The 51-year-old had claimed £18,348.43 in Employment Support Allowance when he lost his job with a charity, but had not declared that he had over £35,000 tucked away in savings, St Albans crown court heard.

Prosecutor Elise Jermiah said that when making the claim he should have declared that he had more than £16,000. He should also have told the Department of Work and Pensions that he had spent more than six months out of the country while travelling.

The man, who lives in Chesham, pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances.

Andrew Morton, defending, said he lost an advisory job he had with a charity in 2010 and was now on benefits. He said that even before proceedings had been launched he had contacted the DWP on behalf of his client to arrange repayment of the money, which has now been done.

Judge John Pumstead passed a 6 month jail sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered him to pay £500 costs.

He told him: “If you had not paid the money back I would have taken a different course. You have a genuine disability and before you were prosecuted you were in the process, through your solicitor, of negotiating the return of the money that you had kept.”