A GAMBLING addict who fraudulently claimed more than £16,000 in benefits because he thought he didn't have to declare gifts of thousands of pounds of money left to him in wills has been spared jail.

Christopher Martin had at one point up to £49,000 in capital, Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

But after losing his job at the Greenfill Print Site in Saddleworth he signed on for four benefits.

The law states those with savings above £16,000 are not eligible to claim but he took jobseeker's allowance, income support allowance, housing benefit of universal credit at various times between December 2014 and September 2017, the court was told.

Prosecutors say at the time he had received a £12,000 redundancy payout, £20,000 from his mother in her will and a further £18,000 which a friend had left him.

When first questioned by police he said he had signed forms stating he must declare savings held he claimed he did sign them but due to his epilepsy and memory loss he should have got help at the time. He also removed money from an ISA account to cover his tracks, the court heard.

Martin, of Coverham Avenue, Alt, admitted to a fraud totalling £16,402.

Craig McGregor, defending, said: "He is a gambler, some of it was paid to his son's wedding, some went to pay debts, some was fluttered away on gambling.

"He has paid back £3,500. If he could pay it back he would and immediately but he can't."

He added that Martin thought the sums of money he received were "gifts" but he had told him he "needed to declare" them

Judge Baxter said: "I do not accept it was naive, if you have the capital you have to declare it."

Passing sentence, she added: "You have previous convictions, they are very old, the last one is from 1981. They are all for dishonesty, this illustrates to me you knew what you were doing.

"It was dishonest from the outset.

"I need to take account of your age, all that I have read in the sentence report, that you are in poor health, the fact that you have been paying over the delay of two years it has taken to get this matter before the court the best part of £3,500.

"For all of those reasons I am persuaded I can suspend the sentence."

She gave him an eight month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months and ordered him to attend 25 rehabilitation requirement days to address his gambling addiction.