A COUPLE who defrauded the Isle of Wight Council to the sum of £170,000 have been spared jail.

Paul and Susan Templeman, of Allotment Road, Niton, were spared prison time because they care for Susan's severely disabled 43-year-old daughter.

Over several years, the pair claimed money for a personal care assistant for their daughter, falsely claiming they were both in full time work, prosecutor Poonam Patni told the Isle of Wight Crown Court on Friday.

However, a care assistant was never employed and when the council carried out checks against the claim, the couple falsified time sheets and bank transactions.

Paul Templeman was a registered personal care assistant for the council, so knew how to navigate the system, the court heard.

The pair used details of one of his colleagues, claiming she was providing the care.

Mr Templeman also claimed money for caring for other people with special needs, claiming he worked multiple hours, when he actually only carried out brief visits, often no longer than half an hour, Ms Patni said.

For the Templemans, Oscar Vincent said: "On speaking to both defendants, it is immediately apparent the offending behaviour is primarily motivated by a desire to provide for the daughter."

Mr Vincent said the fraudulent claims started as small amounts and they lost track and had no idea of the full scale of what they were doing.

"When the investigation happened, they were horrified by the amount," Mr Vincent said.

Mr Vincent pointed out the money was not spent on a lavish lifestyle.

Some of the money was spent renovating their two-bed bungalow to improve access for their daughter's wheelchair, however some of it was spent on holidays.

The money has also been paid back in full to the Isle of Wight Council by Mr Templeman's elderly parents.

Sentencing, Judge Roger Hetherington said: "If there ever was a case that demonstrates the difficulty courts face in sentencing, it is this.

"The court has to sentence you for the very substantial fraud committed against the council tax payers and the individual vulnerable people in the community who were meant to be receiving care.

"Because of the fundamental dishonesty and abuse of trust, this richly deserves a sentence of immediate imprisonment.

"However, that would be appalling punishment on your severely disabled daughter, for whom you give complete care.

"Were you to receive an immediate custodial sentence, the effect would be disastrous for her."

Both Mr and Mrs Templeman received two years suspended for two years.

Mr Templeman will have to complete 24 days rehabilitation and the pair will have to pay £300 court costs.