A former Cheshire golf club captain has avoided jail after swindling £40,000 in benefits.

Valerie Lewis, 55, said she suffered back pain which made it “virtually impossible” for her to walk unaided outdoors, but fraud investigators recorded the woman playing golf at her local club without any difficulties.

After pleading guilty to dishonestly claiming benefits totalling £40,082, Lewis was sentenced to 24 weeks in jail, suspended to two years.

The mother-of-two made a claim for Disability Living Allowance in March 2001, saying that she needed help getting in and out of bed and that she couldn’t walk more than 140 yards without going to bed for the rest of the day.

The court accepted that the woman once suffered a back problem but they said that very soon after making the claim, she was playing golf up to three or four times a week.

During Lewis’ captaincy at Sutton Hall, the Department for Work and Pensions received a tip-off that Lewis was not entitled to the benefits she was receiving.

Defending Lewis, David Ackerley said that Lewis “misunderstood” the meaning of the DLA application forms.

The barrister called for leniency in sentencing Lewis because she was needed as a carer for her family as her husband had suffered three strokes, her mother is blind and her father has terminal cancer.

Lewis has been ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, as well as the suspended 24-week prison sentence.