A BENEFIT cheat who stole more than £1,500 from Warrington Borough Council to fund his drug habit has avoided jail.

Lee Chase, of Clarke Avenue, Latchford, failed to inform the council he was employed on three separate occasions, knowing this would affect his entitlement to council tax support.

The 41-year-old committed the offences between January 2014 and April last year, allowing him to claim £1,596.45 in council tax support during this time.

The agency worker appeared at Warrington Magistrates' Court on Wednesday to be sentenced for three charges of false representation.

He had also breached a two-year conditional discharge for assault which was imposed in November 2016.

Cheryl Nicholson, prosecuting on behalf of the council, said although they accept that Chase entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, his activity was 'fraudulent from the outset.'

She said his 'dishonesty' started on January 15, 2014, when he entered a claim form for council tax support stating he did not work – a statement he knew to be untrue as he was working for Speedy Asset Services Limited.

After this employment ended, he continued to claim until April last year despite being employed by Adecco Limited.

The court heard how Chase is currently working Monday to Friday and earning £325 per week.

He is said to be attending Pathways to Recovery, a drug and alcohol service in Warrington and is 'engaging well' with this.

Julian Tutchener-Ellis, defending, said Chase had suffered with a drug addiction after the breakdown of his relationship.

He said: "Mr Chase has a tragic and colourful history. He had an eight month old daughter, who died of cot death a few years ago.

"Unfortunately, the relationship broke down that he was in, he lost his home and moved into a hostel.

"He became associated with Class A drug users."

Mr Tutchener-Ellis said Chase had used crime to fund his habit and this was the 'rationale for his offences.'

He said: "It is promising to hear that he is engaging with the court order and addressing the addiction.

"He accepts responsibility and can not blame it all on drug addiction."

He asked the bench of magistrates to consider that if they had dealt with these offences on the same date as the assault charge, they would have made 'little to no difference to the outcome'.

Magistrate Karen Drury handed Chase 80 hours of unpaid community work, and ordered him to pay £150 to Warrington Borough Council for bringing the case to court.

He will also pay an £80 victim surcharge, but no action will be taken in regard to breaching his conditional discharge.