A Pembroke man who “served his country with pride” but then fiddled more than £27,000 in benefits was told he had avoided a jail sentence by the skin of his teeth.

Christopher Ferrier, aged 62, of Meadowbank, had admitted receiving housing benefit and council tax relief to which he had not been entitled over a ten-year period.

Swansea crown court heard that Ferrier had begun claiming in June, 2001, and that the claims were fraudulent from the outset because he failed to reveal he was receiving two pensions.

During the years that followed he was asked from time to time to confirm that his circumstances were still as had been stated and he made false statements in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2011. In all, he was overpaid £27,235.

The court heard that Ferrier had had once served as a soldier in the Royal Regiment of Wales.

His barrister, James Hartson, said he had been a man of impeccable character who found himself in court for the first time in his life at the age of 62.

The court heard that Ferrier was slowly repaying the money.

Judge Paul Thomas said Ferrier had stolen from everyone in the courtroom and everyone in the country who paid taxes.

He said a custodial sentence was called for and Ferrier had escaped by the skin of his teeth from going to prison immediately.

Ferrier was jailed for 50 weeks, suspended for 12 months, and placed under supervision for 12 months.