A BENEFITS cheat has been spared jail – because the cost of locking him up for a year would be the same as the amount he swindled.

Karmal Mustafa dishonestly claimed £38,856.50 of income support, council tax and housing benefit while working over a seven-year period.

But Judge Carol Hagen told Bristol Crown Court: “£39,000 is what it costs to keep one man in prison for a year. Do I wish to burden the state further with another £38,000 to £40,000, much as I think it is deserved?”

Instead the judge handed Mustafa a 24-week suspended sentence, ordered him to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and pay £250 costs.

The court heard 29-year-old Mustafa was using his dual income to support two families – one in his native Somalia and one in Bristol.

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