Scales of justince
A woman faces "almost certain imprisonment" today after pretending her son had cancer to claim £50,000 in benefits

A mother who shaved her son's head to pretend he had cancer and fraudulently claim £50,000 has been sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.

The woman, who is from the Stroud area and cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared at Gloucester Crown Court this morning.

Before the sentencing, she was told by the judge that she faced "almost certain imprisonment".

She started the scam when the boy was around four and kept up the pretence for a number of years, until he was seven. She shaved his head so it looked like he was receiving chemotherapy treatment.

The woman admitted to one count of child cruelty, eight of fraud and one of forgery. She also pleaded not guilty to a number of other charges, including fraud, child cruelty and forgery.

Prosecutor Lisa Hennessy said: "The Crown say the defendant claimed that her child had cancer and shaved his head and eyebrows and claimed her other children had various disabilities never diagnosed."

After being found guilty, Judge Jamie Tabor QC said he was regretful that he could not sentence the woman sooner, as the process had been delayed several times.

He said: "This lady is in very serious trouble and is entitled to know where she stands."

The judge also noted that he did not want to get the woman's hopes up that she would receive a lighter sentence because a psychiatric report, by Dr Jim Laidlaw, did not arrive in time for the pre-sentence report to be prepared.

"[The medical report showed that] conniving behaviour over a long period of time is not normally associated with a seriously ill woman.

"I am satisfied the court already has sufficient information to deal with the case but I am also sensitive to the fact that you have not had the opportunity to fully digest the import of Dr Laidlaw's report.

"She faces imprisonment and the pre-sentence report writer needs to know that."

Speaking to the woman, he added: "You have been waiting a long time and you know you are facing a sentence almost certainly of imprisonment. The sooner you get on with that the better for all concerned."